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Swine flu vaccine now plentiful in MeckCo

After weeks of short supply, the Mecklenburg County Health Department now has thousands of open appointments to administer the H1N1 vaccine. Shipments of the vaccine are now steady, while demand seems to have waned. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Until the last week or so, the Mecklenburg County Health Department and Charlotte-area hospitals were getting 1,000 to 2,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine per week and people who wanted to get it were being turned away as supplies ran out quickly. But County Medical Director Stephen Keener says the tide has turned, with weekly shipments now ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 doses. So far, that turns out to be more than people seem to want: "We were kind of joking this morning about, you know, at first it's a drippy faucet and everybody wants it and then all of a sudden it's a firehose and nobody wants it," says Keener. Mecklenburg County's health clinics have so far booked only a third of the 4,000 swine flu shot appointments available this week. Dr. Keener thinks the holiday may have distracted people. But he says there seem to be a lot of people still wondering if the vaccine is safe, or if it's even worth getting now that the swine flu cases are declining again. "We all fully expect at the time when we usually have our seasonal influenza season in February and March, we're going to have another wave," says Keener. "But we really want our listeners to know that this is a safe vaccine. It's basically made the same way the seasonal vaccine is every year. It is the best way to protect you and your family from getting H1N1 this spring." For now, the vaccine is still restricted to priority groups that include children, college age youth, pregnant women, people who live with infants and adults who have chronic medical conditions. However, Dr. Keener says soon the county expects to make the H1N1 vaccine available to anyone who wants it. Supplies of the vaccine have also increased at other counties in the Charlotte region. To make an appointment in Mecklenburg County, call 311 or visit meckhealth.org.