Sebelius Touts H1N1 Vaccine Supply at D.C. Clinic That Lacks Doses Needed

By Penny Starr | November 18, 2009 | 5:38 PM EST

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at a community health center in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. She announced that 50 million of the 250 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine that the federal government ordered are now available. ( Starr)

( – At a community health center in Washington, D.C., that serves mostly low-income Hispanic families, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday that the federal government now has 50 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine available.
However, the three clinics the center operates in the District of Columbia and Maryland have received only 600 of the 3,000 doses they requested from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The 50 million doses are also short of the 159 million doses the CDC said would be needed to vaccinate the highest risk people across the country.
“Right now, as of today, we have 50 million doses not available and more is coming each and every day,” Sebelius told the crowd of about 100 people that gathered at the center to hear her and Spanish-speaking representatives from the CDC. “And so, if you haven’t had the opportunity to have a vaccination yet, more will be available.”
Lyda Vanegas, communications manager at Mary’s Center clinic in Adams Morgan, told that since registering with the CDC to be a distribution center for the H1N1 vaccine in September, its three clinics have received only 600 doses.
Vanegas also said that because of this shortage the clinics have limited those who may received the vaccine to certain groups, including employees who work with young children, children 6 to 35 months and pregnant women.
“There are older people who need the vaccine, but we don’t have enough,” Vanegas said. “We’re almost running out, and if children need two doses that makes it even less.”
According to the CDC, children under 10 years of age need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine, with at least four weeks between the first and second vaccination.
After inquired about the shortage, Vanegas said that administrators had decided to make the 175 doses of the vaccine still on hand available to young people under 24 and adults over 65 with chronic disease, and that future shipments of the vaccine would be made available to these and the other three groups.
The Mary Center’s clinics are also reporting H1N1 cases to the CDC for its database. To date, more than 550 cases of swine flu have been reported at its three clinics.
As reported earlier, the CDC estimated that 159 million doses were needed to vaccinate the highest risk groups against the H1N1 vaccine, including pregnant women, people who live or provide care for infants under 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, people ages 6 months to 24 years and people 25 to 64 that have medical conditions that put them at higher risk.
According to CDC estimates, between 3,900 and 6,100 people in the United States have died from the H1N1 virus. Between 540 and 800 of those deaths have been children 17 and younger.
The CDC vaccination status report says that as of Nov. 16, the number of H1N1 vaccines that have been allocated or are ready for distribution total 47, 654,100. The number ordered is 42,530,300 and the number shipped is 40,720,200.
Sebelius was upbeat at her brief appearance at the Adams Morgan center, where she did not field any questions from the press or people in the audience.
“The vaccine will be available, and it will be free, and it will be available to everyone,” Sebelius said. “I’m here to remind you that the good news is we do have a vaccine. It does work against this flu, and it is safe.
“In the meantime, the kinds of things we’ve been talking about continue to be very helpful,” she said. “Frequent hand washing, sneezing into your sleeve or handkerchief, because hands spread the germs, and wiping down door knobs and keyboards and other places that people touch really does help stop the spread of this sickness.
“Keeping kids home, if they are sick, home from school, also helps because this is a flu that spreads very quickly from child to child,” Sebelius said. “So, get vaccinated when it’s available, and hopefully we can keep this flu from spreading too wildly.
“We can keep everybody safe and secure, which is what we are trying to do,” Sebelius said.
The CDC data also show that H1N1 virus cases peaked in October and that the number of cases reported since have declined.