In N.Y., Vaccine Availability Worries Pregnant Women

New York State health officials say only 23 percent of the state's anticipated supply of H1N1 vaccine will be available by the end of the month. That means they can't even vaccinate all the health care workers they wanted to. Pregnant women, who are considered to be at high risk, are worried.

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Not all pregnant women are afraid of the swine flu vaccine; in fact, some are impatiently waiting for it. In New York, people have been told that it may be a while until the vaccine is available. The state health department says it's received only a small percentage of the amount it needs to cover the whole flu season.

NPR's Margot Adler spoke with one woman who's frustrated by the delay.

MARGOT ADLER: Erin Kiernan(ph) lives and works in New York City.

Ms. ERIN KIERNAN: I'm a 34-year-old woman. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and I'm looking for the swine flu vaccine.

ADLER: She's been calling her primary care provider every week for more than a month and her calls don't stop there.

Ms. KIERNAN: My OB, I see almost every week now, and so I have been asking every week. And then my husband's primary care provider, we've called about every two weeks when we get frustrated.

ADLER: No one has it.

Ms. KIERNAN: So then, of course, I'm on the germy New York City subway and people are coughing all around me. And I'm reading this New York Times story about this woman who had something like seven collapsed lungs and almost died from getting the swine flu while she was pregnant. Oh my God, like, all it did was stress me out about the fact that I still can't find this vaccine.

ADLER: But despite these scare stories, she says people around her, including those subway riders, seem calm. Meanwhile, doctors are also waiting for the vaccine to arrive. My own primary care physician said their office doesn't even yet have the form number to apply for the swine flu vaccine.

Because of the shortage in New York, the state health department has suspended a ruling that would have forced health workers in the state to get the swine flu vaccine by the end of November or risk losing their jobs. There had been several lawsuits in the making over this, but now it's pretty moot because the supply is so limited.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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