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How to Get H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine

Perseverance, Patience, Priority Status Key to Finding Flu Shots
WebMD Health News

Nov. 6, 2009 - You can get your H1N1 flu vaccine, but it will take perseverance, patience, and priority status.

Priority goes to people at risk of severe flu if they catch the H1N1 swine flu bug:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age
  • Health care workers and emergency medical personnel
  • Anyone age 6 months to 24 years of age
  • Anyone age 25 to 64 with certain chronic medical conditions

State and local health departments may further restrict eligibility until supplies increase.

But there are some 154 million U.S. residents in these groups -- and so far, only 38 million doses have been available to states. About 10 million more doses have been flowing into states each week.

To be one of the millions of people getting the vaccine, you'll have to work at it. That's no surprise to most people who've tried to find the vaccine. A Harvard poll released today shows that 41% of parents tried to get the vaccine for their kids; two-thirds failed.

The good news is that only 29% of parents said they were very frustrated -- and 91% said they'd try, try again.

That's how Angie Kiblinger got shots of the H1N1 swine vaccine for herself -- she's seven months pregnant -- and for her 18-month-old daughter, Hazel.

Kiblinger, who lives in Hillsboro, Ore., last week checked with her obstetrician and her pediatrician. Neither one had the vaccine or knew where she and Hazel could get it. So Kiblinger, who is enrolled in the WIC program, a federal program that provides medical and nutritional assistance, called her local WIC clinic. The news was good: They told her they had it.

On the appointed day, last Friday, Kiblinger went to the clinic. She waited in line. She got to the front of the line. But the it turned out the clinic had only the inhaled version of the vaccine, which is not approved for pregnant women or kids under age 2.

Going back to the drawing board, Kiblinger checked the web site of her county health department. There she easily found a list of public clinics offering the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. But there was a catch.

"They were holding clinics at local schools, and had a full calendar of clinics -- but about half of them were postponed because they had not received enough vaccine," Kiblinger tells WebMD. "But one, about two towns over, said they'd have vaccine on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m."

So on Saturday morning the Kiblinger family hopped in the car and got to the clinic a half hour early. The line already was long.

"They said they had 700 doses, 400 of the spray and 300 of the injectable," Kiblinger says. "We waited in line two hours before they came out and started counting people. Then they cut off the line -- and sent a bunch of people home who were behind us. They said they couldn't be sure how much of each kind of vaccine would be left when we got to the front of the line -- that it would be close."

Over the next hour, the Kiblingers wound their way through the clinic. When they got to the front, she and her daughter got their shots. So far, so good: Hazel will need two shots for protection, so she'll have to get another shot in four weeks.

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