And we're off: Swine flu vaccinations begin this week, after months of preparations and promises. But don't start bugging your doctor about an appointment just yet.
This week's initial shipments to states are so small that, with a few exceptions for children, most states are reserving them for health workers so they'll stay healthy enough to care for the flu-stricken and vaccinate others.
Inoculations won't gear up in earnest until mid-October, when at least 40 million doses against what scientists call the 2009 H1N1 flu will have rolled out, with more arriving each week after that.
This is uncharted territory — you really can't plan too far ahead to say, "I'll schedule my shot on Oct. 16 at Clinic X." Only as shipments start arriving will local doctors, clinics, school vaccination programs and drugstores get word that their doses are coming and how much. Each state health department decides that.
People will have to stay tuned.
"Take a deep breath, be patient, wait a couple of days, make another phone call and cut everyone a little slack, because it's a little hectic out there, folks," says Dr. William Schaffner, a flu vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University.
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