Long Lines, Low Supplies Plague Swine Flu Vaccine

People in Chicago waited in line for 6 hours; hundreds were turned away.

October 27, 2009, 6:30 PM

Oct. 27, 2009— -- An official from the Department of Homeland Security told Congress today that, despite some overly optimistic estimates, production of the H1N1 flu vaccine is back on track.

But that might be a tough sell for people standing in long lines hoping to get vaccinated.

A crowd of anxious and patient people began lining up at 9 a.m. today in Chicago outside a school gymnasium. It started small, but soon grew into a group of hundreds all waiting for one thing -- the H1N1 vaccine.

For six long hours they packed the hallways, spilling over into the gym. The vaccinations weren't scheduled to begin until 3 p.m.

Jennifer Viverito has been hunting for the H1N1 vaccine for herself and her 2-year-old son.

"It's irritating more than it's tiring because it's like I can't get it at my doctor's office," she said.

Kristen Grant and her teenage daughter camped out all day to make sure they got the vaccine.

"I haven't lived through an epidemic before. I think this is something our generation hasn't experienced. I'm scared," Grant said.

Maria Miller, who has asthma, pulled her 5-year-old son out of school today after waiting all day on Saturday for nothing.

"We were actually turned away because they ran out of the vaccine," she said.

The Millers and hundreds of others waited for1,600 doses of the vaccine to arrive along with nurses who planned to administer the vaccines.

At 3 p.m. they began vaccinating only to shut down the line 30 minutes later. There were more people than there was vaccine, so hundreds were turned away, again.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 22.4 million doses of vaccine have been made available so far -- a fraction of what was originally promised. In September, officials estimated that 40 million doses of the vaccine would be delivered by the end of October.

Government Response

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that 16.5 million additional doses will be made available soon.

"I never like to see people inconvenienced," Sebelius said on "Good Morning America." "If we had found the virus a little earlier, we could have started a little earlier."

Asked whether it was too late for the vaccine inoculations to be effective, she said she believes the vaccine is still useful.

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