Delayed vaccines likely to arrive even later

Delayed vaccines for the swine flu may arrive in The City next week, although it’s more likely the shipment to fight off the potentially deadly virus will arrive weeks later.

The fear is that stalled shipments will leave the high-risk population in The City vulnerable to the extremely contagious H1N1 virus just as flu season begins to gain steam.

The federal government is supplying free vaccine doses to municipalities in an effort to combat potential infections and hospitalizations.

However, the “complex” distribution process has been slower than expected, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

There’s a “20 percent chance” The City’s first 100,000 doses will be shipped by Monday, health department chief Mitch Katz said Tuesday at a commission meeting.

But there is still no definitive timeline.

“We’ll just go week by week,” Katz said.

If an outbreak were to hit The City, health officials said they fear an epidemic would overwhelm hospitals because of a shortage of beds.

After the first 100,000 doses arrive, another 30,000 or so will come each week thereafter as needed.

Last week, The City received and doled out 7,000 doses of the nasal spray only to children 5 years and older. However, the nasal spray is not safe for some of the most susceptible groups: pregnant women and people with chronic health problems.

The City needs up to 180,000 doses to cover all San Franciscans who are at high risk of contracting swine flu, health officials said.

The population of younger adults is critical to cover since they are among those who have been hospitalized most nationwide, according to new figures from the federal government.

That data shows that more than half of all hospitalizations were people 24 and younger; more than a quarter were ages 5 to 18 years.

Swine flu deaths were concentrated in young and middle-age adults. A third of all deaths were people ages 25 through 49 and another one-third were 50 to 64.

Only 12 percent of deaths were elderly folks. That’s a stark contrast to the roughly 90 percent from seasonal flu, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a Tuesday news conference.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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