ATLANTA — Orders for the first shipments of swine flu vaccine are rolling in, and federal health officials say the first doses should be given in some places early next week.
Twenty-five states and metro areas placed orders Wednesday — the first day they could. That’s nearly half of the roughly 60 states, cities and territories that are eligible to place and direct swine flu vaccine orders for the public.
An estimated 6 to 7 million doses of vaccine should be out next week, and they should include both shots and the nasal spray form of the vaccine. But the first 600,000 doses, which should be available Tuesday, will all be nasal spray, said officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The nasal spray is not recommended for some of the people who are most in danger of complications from flu, including pregnant women and people with asthma. So “we believe that a lot of the states will be directing those early doses to health-care workers,” who are another priority group, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Her prediction was confirmed by health officials in Minnesota. “By administering the vaccine first to health care and emergency medical workers, we are helping to ensure that our health care system is in good shape to care for Minnesotans who become ill,” said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, in a prepared statement.
The states that placed orders Wednesday include Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. also did.
Others were placing orders Thursday and Friday, Schuchat said.
Over time, the government expects to have a total of 250 million doses of the new vaccine, although 10 percent of that has been promised to other countries.
“We’ll be getting more vaccine regularly, and the states and large cities will be ordering regularly. So this is really just the beginning,” Schuchat said.
At a press conference Thursday, she also said about 300,000 pediatric, liquid doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu have been released from a national medicine stockpile to address a shortage. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius approved the release Wednesday.
The CDC doesn’t have an exact count of swine flu deaths and hospitalizations, but existing reports suggest the infection has caused more than 600 deaths and more than 9,000 hospitalizations since the virus was first identified in April.
The government keeps more careful count of deaths of pregnant women and children attributed to swine flu. The CDC is aware of 28 deaths of pregnant women and about 50 of children.
Mike Stobbe/The Associated Press