April 1, 2010 -- Nearly one in four U.S. residents got the H1N1 swine flu vaccination, the CDC reports.
"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. residents.
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 Island.
"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.