Swine Flu Vaccine in Short Supply

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

"They said the vaccine is not available to the general public," said Ken Simpson as he emerged from the Clinton County Health Department's main office Thursday.

He left the free swine flu vaccination clinic there a bit dissatisfied.

"Her immune system is compromised," he said, referencing his wife Jan. "So she should probably be in line."

Jan is a breast cancer survivor. But compromised immune systems aren't yet considered a top priority for vaccination.

"The target of today's clinic is those who live with or care for infants six months or under," said Mid-Michigan Health Department spokeswoman Kim Singh.

Why the strict criteria? Because there's simply not enough swine flu vaccine to go around. Clinton County received just 550 doses for its free clinic Thursday -- that's for an area with a population close to 70,000.

One vaccine, in other words, for every 140 residents.

"Very frustrating," Singh conceded. "But we feel that it's also our goal to make sure that the vaccine that is here early goes to the highest-risk individuals."

The numbers are just as bad in Ingham County. The health department there has received about 22,000 doses of swine flu vaccine for about a quarter-of-a-million people.

The problem? The vaccine is simply taking longer to grow inside its eggs than the federal government anticipated.

"It's been a little frustrating just trying to figure when the vaccine or mist was gonna come out," said Nicole Thoma, another visitor to the free clinic in St. Johns on Thursday.

She and her husband Josh finally received the flu mist vaccine. They've got a two-month-old son -- which made them priority candidates -- but say for a while, they were worried.

"Pretty nervous, just making sure that everyone that touches does the hand-washing and the hand-sanitizing," Nicole said.

That puts her in the company of many in the mid-Michigan area.

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