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Mar 24, 2010 12:32 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Swine flu vaccine may go to waste

The Tarrant County, Texas Health Department is scrambling to administer 20,000 swine flu shots in the next two weeks as demand for the vaccines has plummeted nationwide.

"At the end of the month they'll expire, and we'll have to throw them out," said health department spokesman Marc Flake.

Last year, the vaccines couldn't arrive soon enough. Hospital emergency rooms were flooded with flu patients. Schools closed.

But now, health departments are having a hard time giving the shots away, even amid warnings about another possible outbreak.

"We all still think it's important for people to get the vaccine," Flake said.

A public clinic in La Gran Plaza mall in Fort Worth administered about 300 shots per day just a few months ago. Now, demand has dropped by about 80 percent.

Tarrant County no longer has restrictions on who can receive the vaccine.

"Anybody else outside Tarrant County who wants the vaccine, we'll let them come in and get it, regardless of their county of residence," Flake said. "We want to give as much of it away as we can before we have to throw it away."

The H1N1 flu arrived in Texas in April 2009 with big outbreaks in May and September.

The federal government spent $1.6 billion on the vaccines and gave them free to state and county governments. It's not clear how many of the shots have expired and been discarded.

Across the country, other health departments have found creative ways to advertise the abundant supply -- using everything from banners at rodeos to wristbands at nightclubs.

 

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