New England leads the nation in swine flu vaccinations, while the South has the lowest rates, U.S. health officials said Thursday in the first state-by-state report on turnout.
In Maine, 37 percent of all residents have been vaccinated, compared with the national average of 24 percent. Maine’s is one of the highest rates in the nation.
“We are extremely grateful for the thousands of Maine people who worked hard to make sure that as many people as possible were offered vaccine,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Maine’s vaccination rate for those in the highest priority groups — such as pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions — was tied for first in the nation at 51 percent. The national average for these groups was 33 percent.
Sixty percent of Maine’s children ages 6 months to 17 years were vaccinated, compared to 37 percent nationally. Maine’s childhood vaccination rate was tied for second with Vermont and Massachusetts. Rhode Island’s was first in the nation.
Senior citizens in Maine also had among the highest vaccination rates. Forty percent of Mainers 65 years of age and older were vaccinated, and this is nearly twice the national rate of 22 percent and tied for first.
Overall, Rhode Island has the highest rate of about 39 percent — three times higher than Mississippi, which has the lowest percentage of residents vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC also reported that a record number of health care workers — nearly two-thirds — received seasonal flu vaccines last summer and fall, but the turnout for swine flu shots was much lower, more than a third.
The report offers the first look at how the swine flu vaccination campaign played out around the country.
About 72 million to 81 million Americans — about 24 percent — have been vaccinated since October, CDC officials said Thursday.
At first, doses were hard to come by because of supply limitations. But as flu cases dropped, so did demand, and now there are tens of millions of unused doses.
Health officials last week renewed their push for vaccinations, citing a recent uptick in hospital cases in Georgia.
The CDC calculated state rates from two telephone surveys that included about 140,000 adults and nearly 75,000 children. The surveys covered vaccinations through January.
Rhode Island’s high rate of 39 percent was followed closely by five other states — Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, South Dakota and Hawaii.
Mississippi came in with the lowest rate of 13 percent. Many of the 13 other states with rates at or below 20 percent are in the Southeast and South Central regions, including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.
Experts have said it’s difficult to compare state vaccination rates because situations vary from place to place.
For example, the Southeast was hit earlier in the large wave of illness last summer and fall — before vaccines were available. In late November, when vaccine finally was becoming plentiful, swine flu was easing in some Southeastern states but was widespread and more worrisome in the Northeast.
New England was “able to take advantage of that demand with ample supply by then,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, a CDC flu expert, said at a press conference Thursday.
Also, the way state and local health departments organized clinics and distributed vaccine differed. For example, both Rhode Island and Maine had aggressive, statewide efforts to hold clinics at schools, Schuchat said.
“There was not a lot of details by the federal government about how to how get this done. It was really left up to the states,” said Andrew Pekosz, a flu expert at Johns Hopkins University.
“Some states were more efficient,” said Jim Cohn, a spokesman for Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain and a large provider of swine flu vaccinations.
The CDC also found:
ä 37 percent of children were vaccinated. Again, the rate was highest in Rhode Island, about 85 percent. Georgia had the lowest rate, about 21 percent.
ä 33 percent of people in priority groups got the vaccine. That includes children and young adults, health care workers, pregnant women and those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for complications.
ä 62 percent of health care workers received seasonal flu vaccinations, according to an Internet-based survey of about 1,400 health care workers. The highest previous rate for health care workers was just shy of 50 percent.
ä 37 percent of health care workers received swine flu vaccinations.
Since it was identified last April, swine flu has sickened about 60 million Americans, hospitalized 265,000 and killed about 12,000. The U.S. death toll from the new H1N1 virus, declared a global epidemic, is about one-third of the estimated deaths from a regular flu season.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE
Samantha Coombs of Orrington holds her son, Izaiha, 6, as he gets vaccinated during an H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination clinic at the Bangor Civic Center in October 2009.