City residents heed call on swine flu 

Whether the swine flu outbreak last year was a serious threat or just a scare, San Franciscans appeared to heed the warnings.

Less than 60 percent of the nation’s supply of vaccines to combat the fast-spreading H1N1 virus have been used, but 80 percent of the federal government’s allotment to San Francisco has been administered to residents, The City’s Department of Public Health reported.

In San Francisco, about 371,840 of the estimated 464,800 doses sent to hospitals and private providers through last month have been used, said Erin Bachus, The City’s adult immunization coordinator.

Conversely, while an estimated 126 million vaccine doses have been shipped to states, only about 75 million Americans have been vaccinated, the federal government said.

The media hype surrounding swine flu since the strain emerged in April, coupled with a major government advertising campaign to urge the public to get vaccinated, helped prove to San Franciscans that it’s better to be safe than sorry, Health Department spokeswoman Eileen Shields said.

“I’ve seen billboards, TV ads, radio ads [around The City] ... in all languages and all communities,” she said, adding that large billboards were hoisted on 16th Street, U.S. Highway 101 and Cesar Chavez Street.

Despite using up a large portion of the vaccines, health officials and private practitioners say there are still plenty to go around, and they continue to urge residents to get vaccinated.

The outbreak has waned, but officials warn that another wave of infections could strike before the flu season ends. At least 15,000 people have died worldwide, including 527 in California and eight in The City, authorities reported.
There are enough vaccines and supplies in The City that health officials here have opted to send some of the surplus supplies to help with earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Five vanloads carrying 40,000 syringes and sterile needs — boxes of bandages, cases of hand sanitizer, gloves, alcohol prep pads, medical tape and other equipment — were recently transported to MedShare, a nonprofit distributor in San Leandro, the Health Department said.

Kaiser Permanente, which serves one-third of the Bay Area’s population, has administered 617,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine throughout its Northern California division and still has “ample supplies,” spokesman Joe Fragola said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

H1N1 stats

- 15,000-plus Deaths worldwide, mostly in U.S., as of Feb. 13
- 527 Deaths in California
- 8,739 People hospitalized in California
- 801 Cases reported statewide during week of Nov. 7
- 42 Cases reported statewide during week of Jan. 23
- 8 Deaths reported in San Francisco
- 42 Severe cases reported in San Francisco
- 41 San Francisco cases requiring intensive care unit treatment

Sources: California Department of Public Health, World Health Organization

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