Yale University Health Services received its first shipment of swine flu vaccine last week, but none of these vaccines are for the average student, YUHS director Paul Genecin said Monday.
The shipment included about 500 doses of the nasal spray vaccine for children ages two to five. There were also 200 doses of the shot vaccine available for high-priority patients, such as pregnant and young children, who cannot receive the nasal spray vaccine because it contains weakened viruses.
Since the swine flu vaccines arrived, Genecin said, YUHS offices have been full with people waiting to receive the vaccine. YUHS is notifying pregnant women and parents of high-risk children within the Yale community about the shipment, he added.
Genecin said he did not know when the next shipment of swine flu vaccine will arrive at YUHS. Previous government estimates of the number of swine flu vaccines that will be produced, he added, have been “overly optimistic.”
“The projections were that there were going to be huge amounts, but it has come to light that production levels H1N1 vaccine are way short of expectations,” Genecin said.
According to The New York Times, the H1N1 virus has not grown as fast as expected in the chicken eggs used to produce the vaccine.
Since September, over 700 cases of influenza-like illnesses have been reported at Yale, but it is unclear how many are cases of swine flu. Genecin said influenza-like illnesses have increased to 20 to 30 reported cases of influenza-like illnesses per day.
Medical officials have had a hard time predicting the number of people who will contract swine flu this year because no one has immunity to the virus, School of Medicine professor Michael Cappello said.
The YUHS shipment arrived several days before President Barack Obama declared swine flu a national emergency on Oct. 24. By declaring H1N1 a national emergency, the federal government can issue waivers allowing hospitals to move swine flu patients to outpatient facilities when they become full, said Yale School of Medicine professor Robert Baltimore, who specializes in infectious diseases such as swine flu.
There are currently vaccine shortages throughout Connecticut, Baltimore said.
“Until recently, it was easier to walk into Walgreens to get your shot,” Baltimore said. “There are shortages at outpatient centers, as well as the main Yale-New Haven Hospital.”
Baltimore said that compared to other states, swine flu has yet to hit Connecticut severely. But as the pandemic progresses, hospitals could exceed their capacity to hospitalize patients.
“Most of people who are infected will contract a relatively mild disease, but even if only 1 percent require hospitalization, and one million become infected, we can still exceed capacity to take care of all the very sick,” Baltimore said.
In addition to the shortage in swine flu vaccines, fewer seasonal flu vaccines are being produced this year. In order to make enough swine flu vaccines, the six vaccine manufacturers in the United States had to cut short the production of the seasonal flu vaccine. Earlier this month, YUHS announced that it had received 7,000 to 8,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine — half of what it had ordered.
Genecin said all seasonal flu vaccines at YUHS have been given.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of swine flu in adults include shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden dizziness and severe vomiting; people who experience any of these symptoms should isolate themselves.