Public Health

Swine Flu Vaccine Ticks Toward Expiration

A woman is vaccinated against swine flu at a community clinic in Washington, D.C., in January. i i

A woman is vaccinated against swine flu at a community clinic in Washington, D.C., in January. Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
A woman is vaccinated against swine flu at a community clinic in Washington, D.C., in January.

A woman is vaccinated against swine flu at a community clinic in Washington, D.C., in January.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

If you're among the million of Americans who didn't get immunized against swine flu, there's still some vaccine with your name on it. But don't wait too long.

Tens of millions of doses of the government-purchased vaccine have gone unused. The Washington Post reports 71.5 million doses of vaccine will have to be discarded if they aren't used before they expire. Another 60 million doses, or so, of vaccine are being sent to less-developed companies or are being set aside just in case.

The expiration clock is ticking. The first batches of vaccine against the new H1N1 virus started expiring in February, according to the CDC.

Run of the mill flu vaccine usually expires by the end of June following the fall and winter flu season. Some of the swine flu vaccine will keep longer, though, and won't expire until early 2011. So, if there is a big uptick in swine flu activity this summer or before next season's flu vaccine is ready, there will still be some vaccine to be had.

In Pittsburgh, health officials will start tossing expired vaccine, starting with some of the FluMist variety that's spritzed in the nose and the injectable variety, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania about 27,000 doses have been discarded of the nearly 684,000 doses sent to health departments.

All told, the Post reports, some 81 million to 91 million doses of swine flu vaccine were used to immunize people. That leaves about 138 million doses unused..

"Did we do as well as we would have liked to? No, not at all," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Post. "But the country did an extraordinary job of responding."

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