Getting Shots: H1N1 Vaccine Confuses Doctors and Patients Alike

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At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatricians last month, many doctors were surprised to learn they hadn't hadn't really ordered vaccine weeks earlier, because they had misunderstood the forms.

According to Dr. Sara Kenamore, of Westchester Pediatrics, the process was like making an online purchase, where you think you're done with the transaction, but there's still another page you don't know about where you need to hit "Submit Order." Dr. Kenamore says during the AAP session, when this was clarified, pediatricians began whipping out their PDA's and emailing their colleagues back home to make sure they placed the order correctly.

The story highlights just some of the confusion around the vaccine. If you're a doctor, how do you get it for your patients? If you're a prospective patient, how do you know for sure whether you should get it? Who's in the top priority groups? Who can get the live virus version, a nasal mist, and who can only get the killed virus version, a shot in the arm? Where can patients find it? Although the information is out there on various websites, it's often incomplete or even misleading. Last week, using online information from the city Health Department, two WNYC reporters and one editor each independently went to H1N1 vaccine clinics -- two of them for personal shots, one of them for a news story -- and all three struck out initially. Vaccine can be found, but it takes work.

And that's in the city, where more than a million vaccine doses have been distributed to schools, clinics, hospitals, and private doctors offices, but only about 18% of that vaccine has been doled out to patients. About the same amount has been distributed to the entire rest of the state -- where it's been quickly administered. Hundreds of thousands more people are waiting for shots.  As WNYC has reported, there are currently no plans yet to shift vaccine supply from places where it's being largely ignored to places where it's being eagerly sought.

Below, WNYC's Fred Mogul discusses the city's plan, and why the shots are widely available in some areas with Dr. Sarah Kenmore, a partner at Westchester Pediatrics in Hartsdale.