April 1, 2010 -- Nearly one in four U.S. residents got the H1N1 swine flu vaccination, the
"If we had more vaccine earlier, more people could have received it," Anne
Schuchat, MD, CDC director of immunization and respiratory diseases, said at a
news conference. "We know we did prevent a lot of disease and death with our
program, but if we'd had it sooner it would have been better."
Vaccination rates were highest in Rhode Island (38.8%) and lowest in
Mississippi (12.9%). The median state vaccination rate was 23.9%. The numbers
are based on self-reports in nationwide surveys of more than 214,000 U.S.
H1N1 swine flu vaccination rates were much higher in children, who were
among the high-risk groups sent to the front of the line when the vaccine was
in short supply last fall.
Overall, 36.8% of U.S. kids got the vaccine by the end of January. Child
vaccination rates ranged from 21.3% in Georgia to an amazing 84.7% in Rhode
"It is premature to know exactly why some states did much better than
others," Schuchat said. "Several factors likely contributed. Certainly when
diseases are very visible, it is natural to have great demand for vaccines.
Since New England saw their big upswing in November, they were able to take
advantage of the increased supply that was then available."
However, Schuchat noted that states with school-based vaccination programs
tended to vaccinate more of their children.
Early last summer, federal health officials made the decision to purchase
enough H1N1 swine flu vaccine to vaccinate nearly the entire U.S. population.
It soon became apparent that the vaccine would not be available before schools
opened in the fall.
Sure enough, schools in some Southern states opened in late August and H1N1
swine flu hit its peak well before large quantities of vaccine could be
manufactured and delivered.
The CDC now estimates that 162.5 million doses of H1N1 swine flu vaccine
have been "filled and finished" -- that is, packaged and ready for use, with
expiration dates ticking away.
So far, between 81 million and 91 million doses have been given to between
72 million and 81 million U.S. residents (young children need two doses).
That means a lot of vaccine is left over. Some of that vaccine, about 25
million doses, has already been donated to poor nations. But millions of doses
of leftover vaccine will have to be thrown out. That isn't unusual -- lots of
flu vaccine gets discarded every year -- but the scale is unprecedented.
Schuchat defended the decision to purchase massive quantities of
"We had to decide: Do we want more than enough or less than enough? And we
decided to protect the American people," she said.