How to Get H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine
Perseverance, Patience, Priority Status Key to Finding Flu Shots
Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Brunilda Nazario, MD
Nov. 6, 2009 -- You can get your H1N1 flu vaccine, but it will take
perseverance, patience, and priority status.
The Latest on
H1N1 Swine Flu
Learn about H1N1 swine flu:
Priority goes to people at risk of severe flu if they catch the H1N1 swine
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age
- Health care workers and emergency medical personnel
- Anyone age 6 months to 24 years of age
- Anyone age 25 to 64 with certain chronic medical conditions
State and local health departments may further restrict eligibility until
But there are some 154 million U.S. residents in these groups -- and so far,
only 38 million doses have been available to states. About 10 million more
doses have been flowing into states each week.
To be one of the millions of people getting the vaccine, you'll have to work
at it. That's no surprise to most people who've tried to find the vaccine. A
Harvard poll released today shows that 41% of parents tried to get the vaccine
for their kids; two-thirds failed.
The good news is that only 29% of parents said they were very frustrated --
and 91% said they'd try, try again.
That's how Angie Kiblinger got
shots of the H1N1 swine vaccine for herself -- she's seven months
pregnant -- and for her 18-month-old daughter, Hazel.
Kiblinger, who lives in Hillsboro, Ore., last week checked with her
obstetrician and her pediatrician. Neither one had the vaccine or knew where
she and Hazel could get it. So Kiblinger, who is enrolled in the WIC program, a
federal program that provides medical and nutritional assistance, called her
local WIC clinic. The news was good: They told her they had it.
On the appointed day, last Friday, Kiblinger went to the clinic. She waited
in line. She got to the front of the line. But the it turned out the clinic had
only the inhaled version of the vaccine, which is not approved for pregnant
women or kids under age 2.
Going back to the drawing board, Kiblinger checked the web site of her
county health department. There she easily found a list of public clinics
offering the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. But there was a catch.
"They were holding clinics at local schools, and had a full calendar of
clinics -- but about half of them were postponed because they had not received
enough vaccine," Kiblinger tells WebMD. "But one, about two towns over, said
they'd have vaccine on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m."
So on Saturday morning the Kiblinger family hopped in the car and got to the
clinic a half hour early. The line already was long.
"They said they had 700 doses, 400 of the spray and 300 of the injectable,"
Kiblinger says. "We waited in line two hours before they came out and started
counting people. Then they cut off the line -- and sent a bunch of people home
who were behind us. They said they couldn't be sure how much of each kind of
vaccine would be left when we got to the front of the line -- that it would be
Over the next hour, the Kiblingers wound their way through the clinic. When
they got to the front, she and her daughter got their shots. So far, so good:
Hazel will need two shots for protection, so she'll have to get another shot in
Looking for H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine
Like the Kiblingers, millions of Americans are getting flu shots and
flu sniffs. Here's how they are doing it -- and how you can maximize your odds
of finding H1N1 swine flu vaccine for eligible family members.
The first step should be to check the flu.gov web site. There's a map of the
United States; click on your state and you'll find links to your state health
At this point, residents of different states will have different
experiences. Some states offer information only about public vaccine providers
(not all states allocate vaccine to private providers); others list both public
and private providers. Some states have links to local health departments, and
those local departments have information about where and when vaccination
clinics will be held.
Whichever experience you have, it's a good idea to use your telephone --
frequently. Regularly check with your local health department and with vaccine
providers in your area. If you want to see how much vaccine is flowing into
your state, check the CDC's 2009 H1N1
influenza vaccine supply status web page.
The key is to keep at it. There will, eventually, be plenty of vaccine. It's
not clear when that will be.
"When we get to that sweet spot where it feels like there's plenty of
vaccine is hard to predict," CDC immunization and respiratory disease chief
Anne Schuchat, MD, said today at a news conference. "I am expecting in the next
several weeks it will get better and better -- but we have been burned on
predictions and I don't want to get more specific than that."
Don't forget that the H1N1 swine flu vaccine isn't the only vaccine that
will protect you this flu season.
One vaccine nearly everyone overlooks is the pneumococcal vaccine, which
protects against the bacterial infections that make life miserable -- or even
kill -- kids and older adults weakened by the flu.
And of course there is the seasonal flu vaccine, although it is looking like
the 114 million doses that will be available this year won't be enough to meet
the unprecedented demand. You can find a seasonal flu-shot locator at the
American Lung Association web site.
SOURCES: Angie Kiblinger, Hillsboro, Ore.
Anne Schuchat, MD, director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC, Atlanta.
National Vaccine Advisory Committee Meeting teleconference, Nov. 6, 2009.
Blendon, R.J. Harvard School of Public Health, "Public Views of the H1N1 Vaccine Shortage," Nov. 6, 2009.
American Lung Association web site.
Flu.gov web site.
CDC web site.
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