In our last Supply Chain Matters commentary on the topic of H1N1 vaccine availability in the U.S. on October 28th, we touched upon the then current imbalance in providing adequate supplies of the H1N1 vaccine.  Since we are now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the U.S. where lots of families gather together, I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide an update on what the U.S. government is indicating as availability of the vaccine.  From my perspective, the picture of availability looks far better, but certain logistical challenges remain.

The status update as of November 23, 2009, indicates that close to 59 million cumulative doses of vaccine were available at government distribution depots for shipment to individual states.  Of that number, slightly over 49.5 million doses have been shipped out to state distribution sites.  Compare that to the October 28 status of 16.8 million doses shipped, and we can conclude that the availability picture is getting much better in terms of the ability to administer vaccine to the high priority and broader population. A visual look at the CDC’s allocation vs. shipped availability graph indicates to me that the current challenge is more than likely the logistical challenges of getting these larger amounts of vaccine from government distribution depots into individual health centers for administering the vaccine to candidates. 

My suspicion is that the overall availability of H1N1 vaccine will get a lot better during the month of December as manufacturers continue to complete shipments from production sources and supplies make their way to final destinations.  The U.S. government has purchased a total of 250 million doses of flu vaccine. That may be little comfort to those who are traveling this coming week and weekend, but the message is be patient, the supply situation, from my perspective, looks to be improving.  Perhaps we might be able to look forward to having ample availability of the H1N1flu vaccine by mid to late December, hopefully prior to the December and January holiday periods when families once again travel and congregate.

As for the normal seasonal flu vaccine availability, we will all have to wait until manufacturers shift their attention to distribution of that vaccine to government agencies, which looks to be much later in the upcoming influenza season.

 Bob Ferrari