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VIA: JournalNews.com

The availability of the H1N1 vaccine nationwide is well below previous predictions, causing panic, frustration and long lines at public swine flu clinics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently has just 26.6 million doses available to health care providers, 33.5 percent below the 40 million doses projected earlier this year.

“H1N1 vaccine supply is increasing steadily. There’s not enough for all providers or people who would want it. And this understands to be frustrating. But the gap between supply and demand is closing,’’ said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC.

The low supply is due to the H1N1 virus not growing fast enough in eggs used to produce the vaccine, Frieden said.

The backlog has been particularly tough for health care officials who are being bombarded by panic-stricken residents seeking inoculation from the virus that is now widespread in 48 states, two more than a week ago.

The fallout was seen at the fairgrounds last weekend when between 5,000 to 6,000 stood in line for hours in steady rain at the first day of the Butler County Health Department’s H1N1 clinic.

“We anticipated a large turnout, but no one predicted this,’’ Patricia Burg, health department director said after the clinic.

Officials had just 5,790 doses of the H1N1 shot and nasal spray for people at high-risk for severe complications from the disease.

The Ohio Department of Health has distributed 595,200 doses of the H1N1 vaccine to providers, including 1,800 doses to the Middletown Health Department and 5,000 to the Warren County Health Department.

Warren County health officials said waiting for more vaccine has been frustrating.

Officials ordered 200,000 doses, but as of last week had received only 2.5 percent.

“We ordered enough to vaccinate anyone that wants to get vaccinated,’’ said Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury.

“… We knew weren’t going to receive 200,000 by the end of October, but we were operating under the impression that we’d have enough for the first (high-risk) tier, but we’re not even close to that. We thought they were talking tens of thousands of doses, not a couple thousand.’’

The Hamilton health department aided Butler County officials in its public clinics and is now vaccinating area school children.

Kay Farrar, public health nursing administrator for the city, said the agency receives upwards of 60 calls a day from people seeking the vaccine.

On Friday, she would not say how many doses officials still have, fearing the agency would be bombarded with more calls.

“People are under the impression that we are keeping it from them,’’ Farrar said. “When we get it, we’re going to get it out.’’

Farrar said priority groups being vaccinated by her agency are: pregnant women, children, EMS and “bed-side” health care providers. Others will get the vaccine as supplies increase, officials said.

But callers, including the spouse of a 70-year-old cancer patient are begging for the shot, Farrar said.

“It’s extremely frustrating because everybody thinks they qualify,’’ Farrar said. “It breaks my heart to say no. If I could, I would give it to everyone that wanted it. But we have to look at what the risk is and who is dying from it.’’

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