Local News

Officials: Too few getting H1N1 vaccine

Posted December 16, 2009 5:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2009 6:56 p.m. EST

— Public health officials said Thursday that not enough people in North Carolina are getting vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus.

Last week, state officials lifted the restrictions on who could get vaccinated, and immunization clinics run by county health departments were opened up to everyone over 6 months old. More than 145,750 vaccinations were administered last week, up from 107,400 the preceding week, officials said.

After that initial rush, though, officials say demand for H1N1 shots has petered out.

"In the following days, it did kind of level out somewhat," Wake County Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford said.

"The serious implications that people may have been expecting to see, with lots of deaths or lots of hospitalizations, they've not really seen that. So, people aren't taking it as seriously as we had hoped," Durham County Health Director Gayle Harris said.

Billy Allen said he got vaccinated in less than 10 minutes during a Wednesday visit to the Wake County Public Health Center, on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh.

"We were fortunate that we were able to come at what may be considered off-hours," Allen said.

North Carolina is one of 27 states still reporting a widespread flu outbreak, so officials are trying to get people vaccinated any way they can.

"We feel that a lot of the parents maybe cannot get to the sites that we have," Ledford said, noting her department is starting to hold immunization clinics at day care centers and schools and is keeping some clinics open as late as 7:30 p.m.

According to state figures, children age 4 and younger account for the largest number of H1N1-related visits to hospital emergency departments

"When we go out to the sites like the schools, and we are starting to go out to some day cares, we see a tremendous turnout," Ledford said.

Durham County is also exploring ways to get people vaccinated, Harris said. Her office is working closely with Duke University to share the local supply, and the health department plans to hold a major immunization clinic at several local schools on Jan. 9.

Brooke Thomas didn't wait for that clinic, taking her children to the National Guard Armory in Durham on Thursday to get the family vaccinated.

"This is more important than anything, so I'd rather do this than go out Christmas shopping," Thomas said.

The state Department of Health and Human Services constantly adjusts the supply of H1N1 vaccine to keep up with the demand. Currently, 45 percent of the supply is going to physician offices, 35 percent to health departments, 15 percent to hospitals and 5 percent to pharmacies statewide, officials said.