School vaccine clinics may be delayed

Posted Sept. 21, 2009, at 7:50 p.m.

Free school-based vaccination clinics in Maine may fall victim to a national bottleneck in the supply of the seasonal flu vaccine, according to Maine’s top public health official. Already, the clinic scheduled for Bangor students at the end of this week has been postponed indefinitely, although a clinic in Brewer is still on track.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that some Maine schools have already held clinics. But others may not receive the doses of seasonal flu vaccine they need for their students until after the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine is available. Limited supplies of swine flu vaccine are expected to start arriving in Maine in October.

Vaccine manufacturers are “clogged up” trying to crank out needed supplies of both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, Mills said.

“The entire system has two vaccines in the pipeline,” she said, and school clinics may have to reorganize to administer both vaccines at the same time.

“You can get both vaccines at once,” Mills said, despite earlier recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people should get the seasonal flu as early as possible and then get the first dose of the H1N1 about four weeks later.

Some people, notably very young children, will likely need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine, separated by several weeks, to achieve full protection, Mills said, although final recommendations have not been issued.

“It’s like the weather,” Mills said, referring to the changeability of information about the two vaccines and the confusing flu season ahead.

In Bangor, Superintendent Betsy Webb said a clinic originally scheduled to take place this Friday, Sept. 25, has been postponed because supplies of the vaccine are delayed. About half of the 4,000 Bangor students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 already have parental permission to receive the seasonal vaccine at the school clinic.

“We’ll just wait until we have the vaccine and then reschedule the clinic,” Webb said Monday.

In Brewer, Superintendent Dan Lee said a free vaccine clinic planned for students in Brewer and Dedham for Oct. 13 is still on schedule. Lee said 1,400 doses of seasonal flu vaccine have been ordered for the event.

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