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Swine flu shots start to arrive in Washington

OLYMPIA — Production problems have slowed the arrival of swine flu vaccine shots in Washington state, but state officials said Monday pharmacies and doctor’s offices will have enough to get all the primary groups started this week.

By mid-November, there should be plenty of vaccine shots in Washington state for everyone who wants it, although the pace of delivery has been about 30 percent slower than expected, state Health Department Secretary Mary Selecky said at a media availability with Gov. Chris Gregoire.

“We wish we had more vaccines now, but we eventually will have it,” Selecky said.

The nasal spray version of the vaccine arrived in the state earlier this month, but the shots will arrive this week.

Swine flu continues to spread around Washington, but since only hospitals report their H1N1 cases to the health department, Selecky could not say how many people have come down with it.

Since mid-September, 163 people have been hospitalized in Washington state for strains of flu — nearly all have been identified as H1N1. Seven people have died, although one case was not swine flu.

More than 95 percent of the cases of flu in Washington right now are believed to be swine flu. Seasonal flu is just starting to show up in Washington and typically peaks in midwinter.

Because H1N1 is a new virus, she could not predict how many people would get it. During a typical year, about 800 people die in Washington state from seasonal flu and about 200,000 report being sick with it.

Vaccine manufacturers have had some production problems and that’s why the shot version of the H1N1 vaccine has been slower to arrive, she said.

Children, health care workers and pregnant women should be first in line for the vaccine, and everyone should plan on getting both the swine flu and the seasonal flu vaccines, Selecky said.

“I don’t want people to be afraid of the vaccine. It’s been tested. It’s tried. It’s true,” Gregoire said.

Tags: swine flu