Hawaii's largest batch of H1N1 vaccine on its way

Hawaii's largest batch of H1N1 vaccine on its way
Stacey Makiya
Stacey Makiya
Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino
Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More doses are on the way. It's Hawaii's biggest-yet shipment of H1N1 vaccine, and not a moment too soon for anxious parents who've been hunting for those shots all over town.

Health leaders say its not enough to meet the demand, but with 73,800 doses arriving sometime this week, it could be enough to ease some swine flu frustrations.

Stacey Makiya of Aiea has been waiting months to get the H1N1 vaccine for her four-year-old daughter Dilan.

"It's been rather frustrating," said Makiya.

Constant calls to Dilan's pediatrician, and still no vaccine.

"It was weekly, and now she's saying, they're saying, try again next week, or they're hoping to get it in by this time or this time, and it's just scary because of the weather," said Makiya.

Makiya is just one of many parents across the state who've been scrambling to get the vaccine for their children.

On Oahu, some parents have bypassed their pediatrician, and turned to the Kalihi-Palama Health Center, which administers the vaccine to children under age 18. A referral or clearance form from their primary care provider and a copy of insurance information may be needed. As of Monday morning, the center only had 39 doses left. By evening, nurses said they had less than 20 in stock, and could run out by the end of the week, if not earlier.

So far, Hawaii has received a total of 226,000 doses.

"226,000 doses for a population of 1.4 million people with high demand clearly shows that there is not enough vaccine right now to immunize everyone who wants it," said Dr. Chiyome Fukino, Department of Health (DOH) Director.

Adding to the shortage is frustration over distribution. DOH says only 25% of the free doses its given to H1N1 providers have been given to patients, leading many wondering where the remaining 75% of doses are at.

DOH says part of the problem is underreporting.

Health leaders, including DOH and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, urge providers to report back to DOH as soon as they administer the vaccine.

"Because it's very important for us to know where extra vaccines are available. If they can't use the vaccine, then we should take it and redistribute it to places that are short," said Dr. Fukino.

The long waiting lists and vaccine shortages have sparked criticism over how DOH is distributing the vaccine.

"It really is a disservice to the DOH and to all the partners to describe the distribution decisions that are being made as sort of a halting, 'oh well, I don't know, let's change it now for no apparent reason'," said Dr. Fukino, referring to reports that criticism sparked DOH to revise its first-come-first-served formula to one based on need.

"We constantly evaluate how things are going and then make adjustments as we go along," said Dr. Fukino.

When CDC sent Hawaii's first batch of vaccine, DOH gave doses to H1N1 providers who placed orders. Soon after, DOH distributed to community clinics that serve people who don't have doctors or insurance. Then two weeks ago, DOH distributed the vaccine to physicians who ran out of or didn't have the vaccine.

DOH's distribution formula is based on the need and the amount of doses CDC decides to send each week.

But Dr. Fukino says they typically don't know how much vaccine they're getting until the week before CDC ships a batch to Hawaii, which is partly why their system of distribution changes continually.

The next batch will be distributed based on size. Larger hospitals and clinics will get more doses than providers who have fewer patients.

"It's being distributed according to a proportion of what people ordered, who received the vaccine already, who hasn't - we would like to make certain that every single provider who signed up with us, receives a certain amount of vaccine," said Dr. Fukino.

As of Monday, most providers were out of the injectable H1N1 vaccine.

But some still had the nasal spray vaccine, including the Kapiolani and Kalihi Walgreens pharmacies.

A link to a list of H1N1 vaccine providers is on this page. You can also call 211 for vaccine availability.