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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Cambridge Public Health Department
State: MA
Date Added: 10/21/2009
Themes: Vaccine Supply and Distribution
Issue Summary: Seasonal flu demand swamps public clinics
Description of Issue(s): When we ordered seasonal flu vaccine in February, 2009 H1N1 was nowhere in our imaginations. By August,the game had changed significantly. Following CDC and Massachusetts DPH recommendations, we scheduled our seasonal flu clinics a full month earlier than last year's.
By the end of September, we had received 70% of our state supplied vaccine, and all of our privately ordered supply.
Actions taken to address the issue(s): We thought we were in good shape. We ran six flu clinics between October 8th and Saturday, October 17th, and in those nine days, we saw more people than we usually see in an entire flu season. On Saturday, 1400 people showed up at our "family friendly" clinic; 1352 got vaccinated, meaning that about 50 were turned away. Some customers had come from Vermont and New York. Many were first time flu vaccine recipients. Customers explained that attention to swine flu has made them more aware of, and careful about all kinds of flu.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: With hindsight, I think it's possible we could have anticipated this, and more importantly, that our leaders in public health might have anticipated it in their planning guidances. On Monday we "indefinitely postponed" the rest of our flu clinics. When we do get the rest of our vaccine, we will have to restrict its use to seniors and the medically vulnerable. To those reading this who have not yet done seasonal flu clinics, be prepared for doubling of demand, and diminishing supply.

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