Missouri has 28 percent of its requested H1N1 vaccine

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | 6:50 p.m. CDT; updated 8:02 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 27, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's Health and Senior Services Department reported Monday it has received only 28 percent of the H1N1 vaccine the state has requested.

St. Louis and Jackson counties are receiving the bulk of vaccine that has been delivered to the state, said the department's spokesperson, Kit Wagar.

Wagar said the state ultimately expects to get 750,000 for the state.

According to Wagar, the department is receiving shipments daily and expediting them around the state.

Additionally, Wagar said vaccine is distributed based on the population of those with the highest risk of contracting the virus — pregnant women and young children.

There has been a nationwide delay in producing the vaccine because of the time-consuming production process.

Small holes are punched in normal, fertilized chicken eggs. The virus is inserted into the egg and grown inside. Once the virus has matured, it is taken out. "They purify it, blend it, then package it and send it out," Wagar said.

"They're accustomed to getting so many doses per egg, and productivity has been much lower than usual. They're just not producing as quickly as they'd hoped," Wagar said.

The flu season started the first Sunday in October, he said. So far, only figures for the first two weeks are available and show 5,365 cases of flu statewide. Normally, he said, there are anywhere from 5 to 30 cases within the first two weeks.

"It's a drastically increased number this year. All of this past year, October to May, we had 11,300. We've had almost half that many in two weeks," Wager said.

Despite these increases, Wagar said he doesn't fear a shortage and said he hopes by early December the vaccine will be available to everyone who wants it.

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