Santa Clara upset over H1N1 vaccine shortage

October 28, 2009 8:00:39 PM PDT
The H1N1 vaccine shortage is frustrating everyone from families to physicians. On Wednesday the federal government said it is making progress in getting more vaccine out there, but Santa Clara County is not happy with its allotment.

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Nato Palido wants his 3-year-old daughter to get the H1N1 vaccine, but like many places it's almost impossible to find in Santa Clara County.

"I see a lot of people getting sick and we worry, we worry," says Palido.

County leaders are frustrated that Santa Clara is the most populated Northern California county, but the public health department has not received even one dose of the injectable vaccine while other Bay Area counties have received their initial shipments.

"As far as distribution, it's not gone as smoothly as I would have liked it to have come because we should have had have some vaccine already," says county health officer Marty Fenstersheib, M.D.

Part of the problem is simply a shortage. The federal government initially promised California 6.5 million doses of vaccine by mid October. That dropped to 1.3 million doses. The county's initial allotment went from more than 200,000 to 8,800. The fed said on Wednesday it is slowly closing that gap between supply and demand.

"The supply to states is steadily growing. There's no question, production started more slowly than anyone would have liked," says the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Santa Clara County says it needs 800,000 doses just to cover the people in high risk groups such as young children and pregnant women.

The county health officer estimates 75 percent of the population would get the vaccine, if it was widely available.

The county has had 10 deaths and more than 300 people hospitalized with the H1N1 virus. County executive Jeff Smith says he is in constant contact with the state.

"I don't think there is anything we can do expect keep the pressure on them to deliver our doses," says Smith.

When the vaccine does arrive, those in high risk groups will be the first to receive it.

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