Though supplies of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine were sporadic during peak flu activity this fall, health officials said there are now enough shots for widespread inoculations.
Health officials said they had 136 million doses available for ordering by the states to supplement what they described as an already ample supply of the vaccine. States could then disburse the medicine to county health departments, doctor offices, hospitals and retail clinics. Most employers with physician-run work-site health clinics would also be eligible to receive the vaccine.
Sixty million people already have been inoculated, but health officials said they wanted to remain vigilant to prevent a resurgence of the flu in the coming weeks and months.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of immunization and respiratory disease for the CDC, said the nation faced a similar situation during a flu pandemic at the end of 1957 when health officials saw a decrease in flu activity and stopped encouraging further inoculations. The deadly flu returned with a vengeance in early 1958.
“They had vaccine, but they didn’t encourage its use and yet they did go on to see that increase in mortality,” Schuchat told reporters during a conference call Thursday.
Schuchat said it was not clear whether swine flu would return but that further inoculations were warranted to prevent people from getting sick. Young children, adults with respiratory illnesses and seniors in particular should get the shot, she said.
Flu activity peaked in late October but remains above normal levels, officials said.