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Flu Season to Come Earlier, Stronger than Expected

The flu season might start earlier than expected, complicating efforts to distribute an H1N1 vaccine before people are infected. Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight: the early arrival of the flu season and the efforts to get a vaccine out quickly.

    Betty Ann Bowser reports for our Health Unit, a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    After months of anxious anticipation, the campaign to inoculate millions of Americans against the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, finally got under way this week.

    The first shipments of vaccine trickled into some hospitals and health care facilities across the country. The vaccine comes in two forms: a nasal mist, which can be used to protect most healthy people ages 2 to 49, and a shot, which becomes available next week for many around the country.

    Either way, children under 10 require two doses. The nation's top health officials admit the rollout and the distribution of the vaccine has been a bit uneven.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: We haven't seen a flu season like this in 50 years.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Dr. Tom Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control.

  • DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN:

    It's coming available in lots, and states learn each day of additional vaccine available to them. It's a little bit of a messy process. And we do expect it to be somewhat bumpy in the first few weeks. By the middle of this month, within the next two to three weeks, we're going to have tens of millions of doses available.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    While the CDC says 2.2 million doses of a mist version are available so far, its still hard to find, and demand is outstripping supply.

  • WOMAN:

    We haven't received our supply of swine flu vaccine yet. We do expect it shortly

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    While government officials said the vaccine would ship some time this month, the phones are ringing off the hook in doctors' offices nationwide, because there is still a lot of confusion about when and where it will arrive.

  • WOMAN:

    For the H1N1, it's — it's possible, if you can call back maybe in a week or two, we will be able to schedule that appointment.

    DR. DAN LEVY, Child & Teen Wellness Center: Did mom take your temperature?

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Dr. Dan Levy is a pediatrician in suburban Baltimore.

  • DR. DAN LEVY:

    It's been incredibly frustrating. I believe very strongly in immunizing children to everything we can. We're expecting to get our — our initial supply, and which will be about 600 doses for an 8,000-patient practice, in about two weeks.

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