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Vaccine Distribution in New York: Obstacles and Accomplishments

April 14, 2010

Part of a National Vaccine Delivery System

Yesterday marked one year since the first H1N1 influenza outbreak. Statistics that are now emerging about vaccine coverage around the country, such as the Morbidity and Mortality Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine coverage by state, bring focus to the most efficient means of distributing and delivering vaccine during a pandemic situation.

From the earliest stages of the vaccination campaign, New York state health officials were very publicly visible in the response to H1N1, from their decisions to close schools with outbreaks to their use of vaccine. Health officials in the state delivered vaccine to public health and school-based vaccination clinics, as well as private employer clinics for major corporations.

During the fall and winter of last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) distributed a designated supply of H1N1 vaccine to each state health department. Those vaccine shipments were funneled through local health departments and delivered through private and public providers including schools, local health departments, and doctors’ offices. Each state had its own strategy for reaching the greatest number of priority groups, focusing on school-aged children and high-risk adults in the early stages of the vaccine campaign.

“To some extent, state and city health departments followed different philosophies,” reported Mike Stobbe in a recent Associated Press article. “Indiana channeled almost all its vaccine to local health departments. New York City and some states made more use of company health clinics. Which approach worked better is not clear.”

Strategy for Vaccine Delivery under Scrutiny

In November 2009, the story broke that some large employers in New York state had received shipment of H1N1 vaccine. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in particular were singled out in reports from the media.

The media and the public reacted to the decision to use private employer vaccine clinics as points of dispensing H1N1 vaccine. Despite the amount of negative attention, the proportion of vaccine that was delivered to major private employers in New York state was very small compared to the overall supply. All in all, 36 corporate sites in New York ordered 41,400 doses and received about 22,000 during the fall of last year, according to Dr. Jane Zucker of the New York City Department of Health. As of Nov. 30, 2009, more than 1,500,000 doses of vaccine had been shipped to New York City alone, according to CDC estimates.

“Once the story broke for Goldman Sachs, a few of the corporations called and canceled their orders,” said Zucker. “I think that was an unfortunate side effect of the story because there were likely people who would have gotten vaccinated who didn’t have any access to it.”

Now that vaccine is in ample supply and demand has waned, health officials in New York and elsewhere continue to urge people to get vaccinated wherever they can. The efforts thus far to vaccinate residents of New York state are not going unrecognized. This month, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines traveled through the state to honor health officials and their work during the H1N1 pandemic. Outside of New York City, county health departments in the state were able to vaccinate more than 325,000 people.

Read the Story from the Field contributed by the New York City Department of Health on NACCHO''s website.


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