In Alaska, demand for flu vaccines outpaces supply

Five months after the first Alaskans were sickened by the swine flu virus, state health officials say thousands of people here likely have become ill and they expect to see many more cases.

Meanwhile, all the attention on flu this year is increasing the demand for seasonal flu vaccines and temporary shortages are showing up around the country, including in Alaska, said Laurel Wood, immunization program manager for the state Public Health Division. Some parents are having trouble finding shots for children.

People are also clamoring for vaccinations to protect against the 2009 strain of H1N1, or swine flu. While the first 4,200 doses arrived in Alaska last week, they were earmarked for a group at high risk of being hospitalized, children ages 2 to 4.

More doses of vaccine for both types of flu are on the way, Wood said. More H1N1 vaccine should arrive this week, and the state will continue to get additional shipments to fill the need, she said.

Whether there will be enough seasonal flu vaccine remains to be seen; even in a routine year, it's hard to predict how much will be needed, she said.

"We're not in a crisis situation," Wood said. "It's just that demand is outstripping available supply at the moment, but there's more on the way."

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