Nearly 9,000 doses of pediatric swine flu vaccines sent to The City were part of a nationwide recall that hinges on the potency of the shots.
Across the U.S., approximately 800,000 doses of the prefilled syringes made by Sanofi Pasteur — the world’s leading vaccine specialist — were distributed in November. The vaccine, which was tested before being shipped, was found to have diminished in strength in subsequent testing, leading to the voluntary recall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The California Department of Public Health is still gathering information on which agencies received the vaccines. However, spokesman Ken August said the recall affects 47,800 doses sent to 159 providers throughout the state.
The prefilled syringes were intended for children 6 to 35 months old, a group considered at high risk for developing serious illness due to the fast-spreading virus, according to the CDC.
In San Francisco, the vaccines were sent to private practitioners and used by The City’s Department of Public Health, according to Susan Fernyak, director of communicable disease control and prevention for the department. She said it had about 500 of the recalled doses in stock and would not use them. The department did not know how many private practitioners were affected by the recall.
The CDC said the majority of the recalled vaccines had likely been used. Kaiser Permanente, which serves one-third of the Bay Area’s population, said the recalled vaccine “has been quarantined and will be returned to the manufacturer.”
Despite the recall, local and national health officials say parents should not be worried.
The recalled vaccines are safe and likely strong enough, Fernyak said.
“Most likely, children who already received this vaccine are going to have an adequate immune response,” she said.
Children are supposed to receive two vaccine doses about a month apart, Fernyak said. If children have had only one dose, they should receive a second, she said. But kids who already have had both shots should not get a third.
“We really feel pretty confidant that after two doses of vaccine, there’s really not going to be an issue,” she said.
The City’s Department of Public Health said problems that delayed vaccine shipments in October appear to have been fixed. The federal government is providing the vaccines for free and states have been distributing them to localities.
San Francisco has thus far received more than 200,000 vaccine doses and expects more to come, Fernyak said. At least that many people will need them since another major outbreak can be expected later this winter, she said.
City resident Camille Aminov, whose 6-month-old daughter is only now old enough to be vaccinated, said she probably won’t get the doses for her daughter this flu season and will read up on the vaccine before making a decision.
“I need to research it,” Aminov said. “They rushed everything, and it seems like all these people who got the vaccine are still getting sick.”
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health will hold the largest vaccination clinic officials can remember, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Around 16,000 doses are expected to be doled out to high-risk groups between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Examiner wire services contributed to this report.
Where to get a proper dose
What: The San Francisco Department of Public Health will host a vaccination clinic to dole out 16,000 doses to high-risk individuals
Where: Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday
At-risk groups include: Pregnant women; people 6 months to 24 years old; people who live with or provide care for infants less than 6 months old; health care workers and emergency responders; adults up to 64 years old who have health conditions that put them at risk of contracting the flu; children less than 10 years old who need a second dose
Source: Department of Public Health
Details of the recall
What happened: 800,000 prefilled syringes containing the H1N1 vaccine for kids were voluntarily recalled
Who is affected: Children ages 6 to 35 months old
Why: The potency of one batch of vaccines was found to be below government standards after the doses were shipped; they passed testing before being shipped
What to do: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said if your child already had two shots — one month apart — they should be fine; if your child only had one shot, they should get the second dose