H1N1 Shots Widely Available, but Do People Want Them?

A few months ago lines worthy of a rock concert formed around flu clinics as people clamored for the limited number of H1N1 vaccines.

Now the government says there is ample supply, yet public health experts are finding that people are no longer interested in getting the vaccine.

President Obama even declared this week to be National Influenza Vaccination Week and spoke to "strongly encourage" the public to get vaccinated.

"This week presents a window of opportunity for us to prevent a possible third wave of H1N1 flu in the United States," Obama said in a statement Sunday. "I strongly encourage those who have not yet received the H1N1 flu vaccine to do so."

VIDEO: Swine Flu Fears

Richard Quartarone, a spokesman for the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated "at least 60 million Americans have been vaccinated" and that 140 million more doses are at the ready for adults, who should get one dose, or children who need two doses.

The vaccines are in such plentiful supply that they are now available to anyone, not just those on a priority list. But even millions of those on the priority list -- young children, pregnant women and health care workers -- have yet to receive a vaccine.

For example, the Illinois Department of Public Health estimates half of people in the state considered to be in the priority group have been vaccinated so far.

"It's really a supply and demand issue, and we were pushing a campaign for people to come in and get vaccinated," said Dr. Damon Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health director. "The flu season actually extends from about October to April. … We're still not out of the danger zone for both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu."

Experts say that interest in any flu shot -- H1N1 or not -- tends to drop in January despite the length of the flu season, but explanations as to why the public stops worrying vary.

Do People Always Forget the Flu in January?

"There is an abundant supply now of H1N1 vaccine. It's out there. Whether you go into a pharmacy or public health clinic or the like -- and more is being shipped on a weekly basis. That's the very best news," said Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"It's also clear that interest in getting vaccinated has diminished," he said.

Did The Holiday Rush Lead Us to Forget Swine Flu?

Schaffner, guessed part of the dropoff has to do with the holidays.

"They're interested in shopping for presents not vaccines," said Schaffner. "But it's certainly not too late to get vaccinated -- the time to get vaccinated is now, now would be the best time."

H1N1's late debut in spring (most flu viruses don't pick up until fall) led to a media blitz as doctors raced to understand the virus and develop a vaccine.

Some doctors worry that the early peak in spring and a second peak in fall have left the public thinking the H1N1 virus is on the decline.

"Certainly 2009 H1N1 is abating in most states of the country," said Dr. Rich Whitley, president of IDSA.

The rise and fall of H1N1, also known as swine flu, in conjunction with a shortage of the vaccine has left some tired of thinking about the issue and ready to forgo the vaccine.

Angered by the Wait, Angered by the 'Hype'

"At age 63, and with numerous medical problems, I qualified for early H1N1 flu vaccination, however, I could not find anywhere to get it," Patricia Williams, of Springvale, Maine, wrote in to ABCNews.com.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...