The good news is that the Swine Flu, or H1N1, vaccine is going to start rolling off the shelves in mid- October. That’s pretty much where the good news ends.
The bad news is that there is going to be about one-third of the quantity that authorities had expected, which is going to make for a pretty severe shortage of the vaccine when it does become available.
Federal authorities now expect around 45 million doses to be available for the U.S. They had thought until recently that about 120 million doses would be available. There are over 350 million people in the U.S., so that means around 13 percent of all U.S. citizens will have access to the vaccine when it first rolls off the delivery truck.
More vaccine will come in the weeks and months after the first shipment. However, everyone that received the first vaccine shot will need a booster shot if it is going to be effective. Therefore, the next 45 million doses of vaccine will go to protect the same people that got the first shot. After that, they can start giving it to new people. That’s not exactly how it’s going to work, but it’s close enough for our purposes.
The latest guidance from the CDC is that the vaccine is only supposed to go to pregnant women, healthcare workers dealing directly with swine flu patients, children from 6 months to 4 years old, and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old. That will be it for most of this fall and winter. After those people have been vaccinated, then children from 4 years to 24 years old will be given the shot along with other health care workers.
A long way after that comes the rest of us. The majority of us won’t be vaccinated in 2009, and we probably won’t even get it in 2010.
The main point: Don’t rely on vaccination as part of your planning process. If it is available, that’s great, but all indications are that it won’t be.