AUGUSTA, Maine — While swine flu is “quite widespread” in parts of Maine, the state has only enough vaccine to administer to one in seven people among those considered high risk for contracting the illness, the state’s top health official said Thursday.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also said that despite delays in the delivery of the H1N1 vaccine, the state has immunized 12,000 schoolchildren this week alone and more school clinics are planned for next week.
Mills said getting schoolchildren vaccinated goes a long way toward protecting the spread of the disease to the general population.
“It’s going to be several weeks before the vaccine will be like water flowing” into the state, Mills said. “Now it’s just coming in in little dribbles.”
As Mills gave her weekly swine flu briefing, Gov. John Baldacci renewed an emergency proclamation to encourage schools and clinics to administer vaccines. The proclamation also protects from lawsuits those health care workers and clinics that administer the vaccines.
The expected arrival this week of 44,000 doses of vaccine will bring the state’s total to 99,000 doses, Mills said, enough to treat about one in every seven Mainers considered high risks and given priority to receive the vaccine.
Priority groups include pregnant women, children and young adults up to 24, people 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions, and people who live with or care for children under 6 months old.
Mills said cases of swine flu are concentrated in southern and central Maine. The outbreak is evidenced by increases in visits to health care providers and higher rates of school absenteeism. Two people who were hospitalized this week have been discharged and are recovering at home. The disease has now worked its way north to Piscataquis County, she said.