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In Oklahoma, H1N1 vaccine left to spoil as demand wanes

Barely half of the swine flu vaccine has been used nationwide and less than half in Oklahoma. Much of the vaccine has expired, and more is scheduled to expire by next year.
BY SONYA COLBERG Modified: July 20, 2010 at 6:38 am •  Published: July 20, 2010

The much-hyped swine flu shot program left behind millions of doses of expired or expiring vaccine, including more than half a million unused doses for Oklahomans.

The government spent more than $1.5 billion for the swine flu vaccine program. Oklahoma residents, like those in other states, lined up and sometimes waited more than three hours to get the federally supplied vaccinations from clinics and schools after the H1N1 virus hit in the spring of 2009.

The decisions to produce vaccine in large amounts were in line with the threat level at the time, said Bill Hall, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Although there were many doses of vaccine that went unused, it was much more appropriate to have been prepared for the worst-case scenario than to have had too few doses," Hall said.

Don Blose, the state Health Department's chief of immunization service, agrees.

"Vaccine is one of the best preventive tools we have to protect people," he said. "It was particularly lethal for some individuals ... younger people were at risk, as opposed to the elderly."

About 61 million people in the United States were infected with the H1N1 virus, and about 12,000 died. In Oklahoma, more than 1,000 people were hospitalized with the virus, and 44 died.

The federal government made about 162 million doses of the vaccine available for the public.

About 90 million doses wound up injected in arms or sprayed into noses.

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