US swine flu vaccination fever unleashed

As swine flu vaccinations roll out in the US, health authorities are already realizing the country is staring at a shortage. What's more, supplies are unlikely to catch up until December.

In the usually-stoic Washington DC suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland, thousands of people spent hours in line to get a dose of vaccine.

The wait by some accounts was longer than eight hours at one point, and some people had lined up as early as midnight, all in hopes to stave off the dreaded swine flu.

All of this commotion is because of the H1N1 vaccine. There are two versions: the mist version and the injectable version. The injectable version primarily goes to children who are under two years-old and pregnant women. The mist version is for healthier children who are over two years-old and healthy healthcare workers.

The crowds these days have been spurred on to some extent by news of a possible shortage of the vaccine. Over 250 million doses of vaccine are supposed to be disbursed across the country by the end of the year, each state receiving them in increments.

But Montgomery County has been told it will receive only half of what it needs by the end of the month – with promises of much more to come later.

Health officer Dr Ulder Tillman promised that “It may be a trickle now. It will turn into a stream. It will be a river by the end of the year.”

One day, even after the 1,400 vaccines the county had allocated for the day were gone by 10am, people were still falling in by noon. Montgomery County health officials said “no more”, but the additional 2,000 doses they brought in went too.

Those vaccine seekers stonewalled the clinic because many had driven miles from home to get there and had missed their dose on previous occasions.

Montgomery County officials feel they have abundantly helped the high-risk vaccine seekers: young children, pregnant women, and the chronically ill.

But this is just the start and the crowds are waiting for their concerns of the flu to be allayed.

"It's going to be a long flu season. So, patience is what's in order,” Dr Ulder Tillman said.