Flu vaccine requests overwhelm health professionals

Even health professionals need a lift after a week of rough news on the swine flu front.

For one hour Friday, about 50 health information officials from hospitals and government agencies gathered at the Mid-America Regional Council to talk about H1N1 flu, share updates and resources, and help everyone sort fact from rumor.

When it was the Red Cross spokesman's turn, he was succinct: "I'm going to be short. We have no vaccine."

He sat down amid laughter.

Flu illnesses are as widespread now as they are at the winter peak of normal flu seasons, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news conference Friday in Atlanta.

The CDC's latest estimate of U.S. swine flu deaths tops 1,000, and almost 100 child deaths have been reported.

Vaccine deliveries continue to lag, but Frieden said 5 million new doses of swine flu vaccine became available in the past week and vaccine should be more plentiful soon.

In the meantime, many worried parents, pregnant women and others have become vaccine stalkers.

"We took almost 1,000 calls yesterday . . . It was a fun day," said Larry Jones, director of the Independence Health Department, which he said was the first health department in the area to offer H1N1 vaccines to any healthy person age 2 to 49.