Where's the H1N1 vaccine?

October 26, 2009 4:27:47 PM PDT
Lawmakers and medical experts in Houston met face to face Monday for a hearing on the government's response to H1N1. [SWINE FLU: Symptoms, questions and answers and more]
[CHAT TRANSCRIPT: Six doctors took your questions]

The hearing was spearheaded by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressmen Gene Greene and Henry Cuellar. The panel briefed lawmakers on the latest swine flu statistics and answered questions about the vaccine shortage.

While the CDC anticipates about 15 million doses of vaccine to become available by January, demand is surpassing supply right now. And already, Texas has seen 95 reported deaths from swine flu.

So the question is, what's going on with the vaccine and where can you go to get protected?

Don't expect to see the H1N1 flu vaccine in Houston to arrive in meaningful amounts anytime soon. That's the word from the Baylor influenza researchers who worked on the vaccine.

"People have to realize it's the first pandemic of the twenty-first century," said Baylor influenza researcher Dr. Pedro Piedra. "But we have better tools to take care of people than in previous pandemics."

How do you get the vaccine in Houston? Local researchers say the same thing that you've heard before. Keep calling your doctor. And it's what the CDC is now saying, too, because it just took longer to make it than they expected.

"This is a really frustrating situation," said Dr. Anne Schuchat with the Center for Disease Control. "Influenza vaccines are produced through biological staffs, like baking bread. You're growing viruses in eggs and each egg is cracked and you try to see how much virus you've gotten. The manufacturers haven't gotten as much as they would have expected. We're really seeing a big delay."

Dr. Wendy Keitel is the Baylor researcher who led the research here for the government on the H1N1 vaccine.

"There's a perception that corners were cut because we were in a hurry," said Dr. Keitel. "That's just not true."

She says there are faster ways to make it, but they're not used in the U.S. yet.

We spoke with the Houston Health and Human Services Department. They advise citizens to call the 211 help line for assistance. The 211 line is an around-the-clock service that connects callers to various services in the community. In Texas, it routes calls based on the caller's area code to one of 25 local centers. In Houston, the center is a partnership between the state and the United Way.

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