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Swine Flu Vaccination Efforts Examined
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Swine Flu Vaccination Efforts Examined

Swine Flu Vaccination Efforts Examined

Swine Flu Vaccination Efforts Examined
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At the moment, state and local health department Web sites carry little information about swine flu vaccination. That could be because the program is ahead of schedule. The states are in charge of the vaccination program.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And NPR's Joanne Silberner joins us from Atlanta, where she's covering the CDC's efforts. Joanne, we just heard Dr. Schuchat there say that you can go to your state or local health department Web site or flu.gov. If you do that, if you go there, how much can you find at those Web sites?

JOANNE SILBERNER: Well, at the moment, really not that much. It's not so easy today because there's not a lot of vaccine around right now. The program is actually early. They're 10 days ahead of time. They were aiming for mid-October to have vaccine around. It's around now and I did a random check at flu.gov of five states. The best I got was Georgia, Georgia's site. I linked to it there, and that sent me to a phone number with daily updated information that today says there will be more information soon. So I called the state of Texas to see what they had, and their answer was: be patient.

BLOCK: So they're a little ahead of themselves, and probably a lot of confusion along the way. Joanne, why are the states in charge of distributing the vaccine? Would it be easier if there were a national effort?

SILBERNER: Actually, it makes a lot of sense to have each state do it. The more local you get in public health, the better off you are. Think about vaccination in a place like New York City, where you may be worried about lines and crowding. And that's very different than a state like Montana, where your concern is going to be someone who may live hundreds of miles from a vaccination place. So the more local you get, really the better it's going to be.

BLOCK: And the government wants people to get the new vaccine when it becomes available. How will we know when it is, in fact, available where we are?

SILBERNER: I think we're going to know. The government has planned a very big public information campaign. There are going to be public service announcements. There are going to be advertisements and the like. You can go and check with your local, your county, your state health department. Some of them are a little bit hurt by cutbacks in their funding, but I think there will be enough people there to answer the questions. But the supplies are limited, so they're going slowly. What they're trying to focus right now, not on the general public but on health-care workers, and after that maybe pregnant women. You know, the effort today that Dr. Schuchat was in, in Indiana, that's health-care workers because not only are they more exposed to the virus, dealing with sick people, but they can spread it pretty easily. So really, first few days or week or so, it's really going to be looking at them.

BLOCK: We've been hearing, Joanne, concerns throughout this that there are problems - there may be problems with the safety of the vaccine. What can you tell us about the safety here?

SILBERNER: Well, you never say never in medicine. But really with this particular vaccine, problems are not that likely. There's a lot of experience with the seasonal flu vaccine. As officials keep saying, this is basically the seasonal flu vaccine with a little variation. You know, one person told me that if the new H1N1 had come out year ago fall, they probably would have incorporated it into the next year's flu vaccine, and it just would've been a quiet thing without all this hoo-hah.

BLOCK: Also Joanne, very briefly, there were some worries that there might not be, given cuts in public health budgets, that there might not enough health workers to administer the vaccines. What do you think about that?

SILBERNER: Well, I think that the local health departments are going to focus on this, and it might mean that there's less money for other things.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Joanne Silberner, speaking with us from Atlanta. Joanne, thanks very much.

SILBERNER: Thank you.

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