In Britain, No Lines for H1N1 Vaccine

Parents across the U.S. are hunting for flu shots to protect their children and themselves. But it's a frustrating search, with supplies still short and distribution left to a patchwork of state and local authorities.

Across the ocean, England appears to have found a better way, as CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports from London.

Across the United States getting vaccinated against swine flu has meant the frustration of hours waiting on line. Contrast that with the quiet calm of a British doctors office, where it's vaccination by invitation only.

Special Report: H1N1 Virus

"We have to immunize the highest priority groups first," said Dr. Claire Quiggan, a general practitioner.

Everyone at an office MacVicar visited got a phone call from their doctor because they have an underlying medical condition - a pregnant woman, a diabetic man.

Related information:
CDC: Learn More About H1N1
CDC: What To Do If You Get Sick
Flu.gov: Where To Get Your Flu Shots

Jane Theophilus takes medication that depresses her immune system. Why was getting the vaccine important to her?

"It wasn't," she said. "I was told to come!"

The centralization of Britain's National Health Service - known as the NHS - means every at risk person can be identified.

Each NHS medical practice got 500 doses of vaccine, a first wave, to vaccinate the most vulnerable first.

Dr. Steve Field is a British physician and a Harvard professor.

"In the United States … it's about survival of the fittest, survival of those with money over those perhaps who don't have money," he said. "Here, it's much better. I think the system here is equal for people."

There's no panic about supply, because there will be plenty to go around. For years, vaccines used in Europe have included additives that enable a smaller amount of vaccine to make more doses.

"There will be enough vaccine," said Dr. Tarit Mukhopady of University College London. "We have moved from a state of blind panic to one of complacency."

For every one vaccine dose in the U.S. there are four in the UK. Additives are not used in the U.S. because Americans worry about their safety.

After a peak early this summer, Britain has also seen the number of swine flu cases decline. They fell from 84,000 last week to 64,000 this week.

"We would have expected not just to be nudging the season flu level, but to go up," Field said and the current numbers are "good news."

Good news that's leading to a much more relaxed attitude. While some people are still getting very sick, for most it's a pretty mild illness. And after predicting 65,000 deaths in July, Britain's government has revised its worst-case scenario death toll down to just 1,000. That's less than the toll from seasonal flu.
  • Sheila MacVicar

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