ELLSWORTH, Maine — After initial delays, hospitals in Hancock County have received partial supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine, and have begun providing vaccinations to their patients.
Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth announced this week that it had received only part of the shipment it had requested, with the arrival of 1,100 doses of the flu vaccine and 250 doses of the flu mist, according to spokeswoman Jane Sanderson.
Sanderson said Thursday the hospital has requested another 3,000 doses.
“We’ve asked for more,” she said. “We expect we’ll receive it toward the end of the month.”
The hospital has been vaccinating its health care workers at in-house clinics, Sanderson said. But most of the vaccine has been distributed to affiliated physicians’ practices in the region.
Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor has received 2,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine and hopes to receive another 1,300 doses later this month.
“We’ve administered the vaccine to employees, hospital patients and through our health centers with a focus on the high-risk patients,” said Jeff Nichols, a hospital spokesman.
In Blue Hill, Susan Young, the infection control practitioner at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, reported that the hospital also has received just a partial shipment of the requested vaccine.
“We’ve used that for hospital patients and for high-risk patients in all of our clinics,” Young said Thursday. “We expect more later in the month.”
The Blue Hill hospital expected to begin vaccinating staff today with the seasonal flu vaccine, she said.
The delay in the nationwide distribution of the seasonal flu vaccine is the result of a concentration of efforts to produce vaccines for both the seasonal flu and the new H1N1 or swine flu strain, according to previous reports. Those delays forced the cancellation of some flu shot clinics that had been scheduled this month.
Meanwhile, the hospitals also are awaiting arrival of the H1N1 vaccine.
“We’ve heard it’s started to come into the state, but it’s not getting here yet,” Sanderson said.
According to Dr. Dora Ann Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine began arriving this week. In a news release Wednesday, Mills said that 14,800 doses of the H1N1 nasal spray were delivered this week and that 35,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in Maine next week.
Mills said Maine CDC staff is working to order about 20,000 additional doses, both nasal spray and the injectable vaccine. According to early estimates, Maine is expected to receive 340,000 doses of vaccine in the next eight weeks. That amount, however, will not be enough for all Maine residents in the high-priority groups, which are estimated to total 700,000 people.
That shortfall may require further prioritization, Mills said.
The local hospitals are waiting to find out how much of the vaccine they will receive. That number likely will determine how they distribute the H1N1 vaccine. Nichols said they would develop a plan for distribution based on the actual number of doses they receive and the recommendations and priorities set by the CDC.