Turnaway crowd for swine flu vaccine in Butler Co.

Hundreds of people lined up in the rain Friday at the Butler County fairgrounds to get the H1N1 vaccine
Hundreds of people lined up in the rain Friday at the Butler County fairgrounds to get the H1N1 vaccine

CINCINNATI (AP) - Hundreds of people waited in pouring rains Friday for swine flu vaccinations - some in wheelchairs, lawn chairs or baby strollers - but health officials turned many away an hour after the free clinic opened.

"Overwhelming response," said Butler county Health Department director Pat Burg in a statement that no more people could be accepted at the clinic at the county fairgrounds in Hamilton.

Burg wasn't immediately available to say how many H1N1 vaccinations the county had planned to give in the two-day clinic.

Traffic packed busy Ohio Route 4 outside the fairgrounds and vehicles filled nearby parking. Authorities said they had received inquiries from people as far away as Tennessee about getting the vaccine.

The flu shots and nasal spray were offered to county residents considered at higher risk from swine flu, such as pregnant women, parents of infants, and people with underlying health conditions.

Through Monday, the state had received and distributed about 434,000 doses of the swine flu vaccine from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Kristopher Weiss, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health. Most have gone to local public health agencies, hospitals and other health care providers.

"We've known all along that there were going to be challenges with the vaccine distribution and production," Weiss said. "Clearly, 434,000 doses is not going to be enough right now for all of the high-risk people in Ohio."

The department does not have a clear number on how many at-risk patients are in the state. The agency has received some calls expressing concern over the availability of the vaccine, Weiss said. Additional doses will be distributed as they become available from the CDC.

"We urge people to be vigilant, to be patient," he said.

The Cincinnati Health Department began offering vaccinations this week for school children and also held a special free clinic for pregnant women Thursday evening. Spokesman Rocky Merz said about 200 pregnant women received the vaccine, while more than 300 others who called to register were told to wait for future opportunities.

"Because of the high demand, we had them call ahead and get a confirmation number," he said Friday.

Vaccinations were offered several times this week in Columbus and surrounding Franklin County, and no one was turned away, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health. Vaccines were given to hundreds of people in three priority groups: health care workers, pregnant women and caregivers of children under 6 months old.

"We've been able to serve pretty much everybody that's come in through our doors," he said.

Rodriguez said Friday the department was taking inventory of the vaccine it had left before scheduling additional clinics. He said officials hoped to expand the inoculations soon. Federal health authorities report H1N1 flu is widespread across the country, while production of the vaccine is running behind schedule.

At least 95 children have died from the illness since April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

More information is available at https://h1n1vaccine.odh.ohio.gov/ or by calling 1-866-800-1404.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)