H1N1 Vaccine Shortages in Yolo County Lead to Concern and Questions

h1n1_flu_shotGiven concerns surrounding the H1N1, the supply of vaccine is not keeping up with the need to distribute it to high risk groups.  For whatever reason, Yolo County has received less of its fairshare of vaccine compared with surrounding counties such as Sacramento or Solano County.

This has led many in the public to question the distribution system.  Some have suggested that for the most part the only kids being vaccinated were the kids of doctors and nurses.  Officials for their part are that the problem was the small quantity received and the need to get the vaccine to specific high risk groups.  They are hopeful that the statewide distribution system problems will be rectified and a supply of vaccine will become available to the general population.

Early last week, the Yolo County Health Department reported that they had fewer than a hundred H1N1 nasal Flu Vaccine doses which quickly ran out during the course of the day as they administered all the doses to care providers of children younger than six months and children ages 2 to 10.

The Woodland Daily Democrat reported October 27:

Cheryl Boney, deputy director public health programs, said the county held a few clinics last week but word spread and Monday’s clinic saw the most number of attendees. The Health Department didn’t do any advertising, just communicating with local health care providers and letting the word spread like a virus.

This led to the charge by some that with the lack of advertising, the people who were able to get their children the shots were the children of health practitioners.  They also point to the fact that other counties such as Sacramento, the clinics are more public, noticed, and open to all.  However, part of this may be due to the fact that Sacramento has received proportionately more vaccine than Yolo County.

A large proportion of the vaccine went to Kaiser.  One source informed the Vanguard that Kaiser (where I received my vaccine last week) received their quantity in exchange for health statistics on the flu outcomes.  While this source did not question the deal, they did question Kaiser’s alleged practice that they were largely vaccinating children who had already had the flu.

The county sent out a press release Friday clarifying the status.

Dr. Joseph Iser, Yolo County Health Officer and Director said:

“Some healthcare providers in the community who have ordered Novel H1N1 vaccine have started to receive limited shipments of the vaccine or will be getting it soon.  We want to encourage everyone to check with their doctor or regular medical provider if they want the vaccine.”

The county identified five high risk groups arguing it is important that people belonging to the groups identified as high risk for complications of severe illness get vaccinated earliest. The high risk groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who live with or provide care for infants under six months of age
  • Children and young adults between the ages of 6 months and 24 years
  • Adults between the ages of 25 and 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for flu related complications
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services workers

It is possible that since first responders are on this list, that they may also be receiving priority.  The Vanguard spoke by phone with Deputy Director Cheryl Boney late on Thursday who attempted to clarify the system and who has priority.

She told the Vanguard:

We’ve had two very small batches of vaccine delivered.  The first batch that we got delivered was only flu mist.  So that was only the nasal.  We did some distribution of fliers through some of the clients that the county serves, especially the high risk population because the mist can only serve 2 to 49 year olds, who are healthy.  We were trying to keep that to 2 to 10 year olds just because of the very limited doses that we had, so we mostly distributed that through our WIC clients.

Those vaccines went very quickly.

The second batch which we just received we’re keeping that just to pregnant women because its injectable so we can actually give that because the first batch we couldn’t give to pregnant women because they couldn’t take the nasal flu mist.  They are the most high risk.

When asked about the priority, she informed the Vanguard:

“Obviously the pregnant women would be the highest risk.  That’s who we would want to get it to first.  But as I just said, the first batch of vaccine, they weren’t eligible for that.  So then we went to the next eligible population.  We also did try to get it to caretakers of children who are six months and younger because you can’t give vaccine to the six months and younger kids so you try to protect those around that child so then that child doesn’t get sick.  Those are the three top populations–the pregnant women, the caretakers of those six months and younger, and then the two to ten.”

One of the big problems is that there is an unequal system delivering the supply to the counties, according to Ms. Boney the state is trying to rectify this system.

“There has been a lot of questions about the different amounts that different counties have gotten.  The state has definitely recognized that and they are trying to make that more equitable by population.  So they are trying to make sure deliveries will become more equitable in that way.  Hopefully we’ll be getting much more vaccine in the future.”

The county is also working hard to establish a better information system using the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

“We’re working on having a webpage and we have a Facebook page, a myspace page, and also a Twitter account, so people can sign up for that, so as we’re getting our webpage up we’ll be sending our notices out so that anyone who is signed up can get that information.  We’ll send out press releases once we have the vaccine available to the public so we’re trying to think about how we’ll get that out as much as possible once we have the larger supplies.”

It is important for the public to understand that the County Health Department currently does not have any Novel H1N1 vaccine available for the public.  According to the press release, as shipments continue to arrive, public availability through the Health Department will be posted on the website at www.yolohealth.org. Individuals can sign up on the page to be notified when changes are made, which will include availability of vaccine.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 Comments

  1. Crilly

    It’s not just H1N1, there are serious local shortages of the seasonal flu vaccine as well. My provider, the UCD Medical system, hasn’t had any vaccine in over a month and they don’t know when they’re going to be getting any. Rite Aide has also been out for quite a while and they don’t know when they’ll get more. I had to drive to Dixon to get a flu shot at the CVS there. I think the developers are conspiring with the health care providers to kill off Davis citizens for revenge!

  2. Ryan Kelly

    Target, in Davis, had the regular flu vaccine for around $24 (HMOs will NOT reimburse for this, even if your doctor runs out of the vaccine.) I don’t know if they still have it available.

    Wash your hands and cough into your elbow. Stay away from ill people and hassle co-workers to go home if they appear sick.

  3. wdf1

    From anecdotal experience, area Kaiser clinics seem to have been better stocked than other providers.

    It’s disappointing that H1N1 vaccines have been low, because health officials knew this one would be a problem back in early spring. Maybe there’s an even greater lead time required.

  4. rusty49

    Just another reason we don’t want Gov’t run healthcare. They can’t even get a simple shot out to the populace, how are they going to run the whole system? I know you lefties hate hearing that, but we all know the Gov’t can’t run anything very well.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    The government isn’t going to run health care under any plan I have seen. They may regulate more closely, they provide something of a public option, ala medicare, but I have yet to see any proposal that suggests the government would run the provision of medical services.

  6. wdf1

    H1N1 flu vaccine links

    Sacramento Bee info for Sacramento County:

    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/links/story/2216417.html[/url]

    Yolo County Government page:

    [url]http://www.yolocounty.org/index.aspx?page=1757[/url]

    Kaiser Health info for N. California:

    [url]https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/detailPage.do?cfe=228&html=/htmlapp/feature/228colds/nocal_H1N1_flu_shot.html[/url]

    I called the recorded phone info for the Davis Center, and they are out of seasonal and H1N1 vaccines as of last Thursday.

    The south Sacramento center has H1N1 and and seasonal vaccines available. For H1N1 they are now taking Kaiser members 49 and under. A couple of weeks ago they were only taking ages 25 and under.

  7. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]Just another reason we don’t want Gov’t run healthcare. They can’t even get a simple shot out to the populace, how are they going to run the whole system? I know you lefties hate hearing that, but we all know the Gov’t can’t run anything very well. [/quote]Rusty, if that is your ideology, then you must really want to get rid of the current American system in which THE MAJORITY of healthcare dollars are government dollars (Medicare, Medicaid, VA, state and local clinics, state and local hospitals, military, etc.). But don’t be a hypocrite with that ideology. Call for the elimination of the deductibility of health care insurance (which is the government program which CREATED so-called private health care insurance companies). And further, call for a free market in which there is no Medicare for the elderly, no public health agencies to aid the poor or to prevent or limit disease outbreaks, no Medicaid for the elderly poor in convalescent hospitals. And amid all that privatization your ideology desires, call for a system in which private health insurance companies have the full right to discriminate against anyone for having a pre-existing condition or inherited genetic factors which make them higher risks.

    The problem the “libertarian” ideologues have with regard to health care is that they always criticize “more government involvement” in health insurance, but they rarely go so far as to actually call for a real private system.

    And for the small Ron Paul-ish minority which takes that ideology seriously, they have no answers for the economic realities of what it would mean when you have a system in which private health insurance companies would only want to insure the healthiest part of the population; and save the very wealthy elderly, no one over 60 years old could afford private health insurance, particularly if it was not subsidized (as it is now).

  8. Rich Rifkin

    I should add, lest you don’t know me, I’m not a lefty. I’m not an ideologue. I abhor left-wing politics as much as right-wing politics. My advocacy for a single-payer health insurance system is borne out of the pragmatism. Free markets normally create efficiencies. But they don’t in this case.

    Why not? Five major reasons:

    1. Because, as with all insurance markets, there is a disconnect between the buyer and the seller. The insurer stands between those parties.

    Our health insurance market is even more disconnected, because the buyer is not the end user. So the disconnect between the consumer (patient) and seller (doctor) removes the normal market efficiency where the buyer has an incentive to look for the best product at the best price and the seller has an incentive to sell the product he can make the most money on (which is normally what most buyers want).

    2. Medical markets have huge information gaps between the buyers and sellers which cannot be solved by repetitive practice. If I am going to a discount store to buy a box of pens, I know basically how the product works and what I am looking for. If once I find that the pens I bought were unsatisfactory, I would try a different brand or a different store the following time.

    But none of that applies when I have, say, appendicitis. Even if I can look up a lot about that disease on-line, I really have no idea whether I should see Doctor Jones or Doctor Chang or Doctor Gottfried. (But for the government licensing doctors, I might not know that any of them are more qualified than a Witch Doctor.) So I struggle as a consumer of medicine to know the qualities of the sellers. And unlike with pencils, getting an apendectomy is not a repeat purchase. If I’m unhappy, I can’t go back and get a new apendectomy a week or two later. Further, the market fails to control prices, because the doctors who charge less are implicitly telling patients, “I’m not the best. I charge less.” And patients don’t want anything but the best. So doctors usually make maximum profits charging maximum prices.

    3. As stated above, truly private insurers have a very strong incentive to cherrypick patients. If you were selling health insurance and one prospective customer had heart disease and another was fit as a fiddle, which one do you think you would prefer as your customer?

    4. The cherrypicking leaves half or more of the population out in the cold.

    5. Because of our Judeo-Christian national ethic, no one will be left out in the cold — not even death row prisoners — if they are truly broke and desperate for health care, even if that health care is impossibly expensive. But private parties don’t have any incentive to pay for this charity care. Thus it is left up to government.

    So a “libertarian” model ends up being “a market system” for the young, health part of our population, and charity-care for just about everyone else. And it fails in both regards to save money or produce better outcomes.

    If you look at countries like Canada, they have their share of problems. (There are H1N1 shortages up there, too.) In Canada, it often takes a long time to get some basic medical services. However, Canada spends half as much money on health care as we do, and Canadians are healthier, live longer and have better outcomes for most diseases and roughly the same for the rest. Despite all the money we are spending to arrest diseases like cancer, there is not a single cancer in which Americans diagnosed at the same age will outlive a Canadian.

  9. wdf1

    Excerpted from today’s (11/10) Enterprise:

    Free H1N1 flu vaccinations will be offered today in Dixon, courtesy of the Solano County Public Health Department. The clinic will take place from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Dixon May Fairgrounds, 655 S. First St. Both nasal flu mist and shots will be given while supplies last.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Gallup Poll finds:

    [quote]One out of five parents in the U.S. say they have attempted to get H1N1 or swine flu vaccinations for a child but have been unable to do so. Seventeen percent of parents say at least one of their children has already been vaccinated, compared to 5% of adults who have been personally vaccinated.

    Read more at GALLUP.com. ([url]http://www.gallup.com/poll/124220/Parents-Unable-H1N1-Vaccine-Child.aspx?CSTS=alert[/url])
    [/quote]

  11. wdf1

    As of a Wednesday (11/11) phone recording, the Davis Kaiser center still has no seasonal nore H1N1 vaccines. As of a Tuesday recording, the South Sacramento Kaiser Center has both vaccines available and is giving them 5 days/week.

  12. lockdownpublishing

    I spent 10 years in California prisons and know the Pelican Bay SHU personally. I wrote a drug war novel Roll Call by Glenn Langohr to show the public the path we are on by incarcerating petty criminals is only breeding bigger ones who are displaced from society when they are released. The U.S is not the leaders of the free world; we are the leaders of the incarcerated world! I started http://www.lockdownpublishing.com when I got out of prison to help other prisoners change their lives through writing. http://youtu.be/jEQ8Gh1-bFs Here is the NY Review Kirkus Discoveries, Nielsen Business Media
    discoveries@kirkusreviews.com

    A harrowing, down-and-dirty depiction—sometimes reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic—of America’s war on drugs, by former dealer and California artist Langohr.

    I’m also writing over 50 California prisoners to inspire them to turn their lives around through writing. I want interviews and publicity as I am broke out of prison and can’t afford the regular channels…
    Thank you and God Bless Glenn 949 357 7465

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