H1N1 Inundates Hospitals As Vaccine Very Slowly Trickles In

Posted on October 26, 2009

The White House residently declared the H1N1 swine flu pandemic a national emergency and a USA Today article explains why. The article describes a few hospitals that are already being overwhelmed by patients.

Connie Price, chief of infectious diseases at Denver Health, the city's public hospital, says, "I've been living this" since Aug. 28, when the hospital's lab reported 12 positive tests for swine flu.

"Since then we've been inundated," she says. "In a typical flu season, we may hospitalize 15 patients. With H1N1, we've hospitalized 10 times that many. We're not even in flu season yet."

In Rio Grande County, a rural community in the Rockies about 200 miles south of Denver near the New Mexico border, clinics were so overwhelmed with patients that they began turning away those who didn't have flu. With absentee rates of 40%, schools closed. Many of those children turned up in local clinics and emergency rooms.

Some local hospitals probably could have managed if the 120 million doses of swine flu vaccine had arrived by the end of October as the U.S. government promised back in June. The actual number is far short of the June estimate. We will now be lucky to get 50 million doses by the end of November. In fact, it will be a huge surprise if we get anywhere near that amount. As the New York Times reports, "federal projections have been consistently and wildly overoptimistic and have had to be ratcheted down several times."

If the vaccine projections had been met the vaccine might have been able to prevent some of these cases that are now likely to inundate hospitals in November, December and on into 2010.

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