Hundreds of thousands of children are overdue for a second dose of H1N1 vaccine that's needed to fully protect them from swine flu, a USA Today review of data from 10 states shows.
Up to 80 percent of children under 10 who got a first dose are overdue for a second in some states. More are coming due, as health officials brace for a possible resurgence this winter. No state had more than about half of children with a second dose, USA Today reported Jan. 14.
"My fears are people have truly lost interest in H1N1," said Frank Welch, medical director for pandemic preparedness in Louisiana, where the registry shows 18 percent of 97,778 children have received the booster, 25 percent are overdue, and the rest are coming due.
In Texas, 80 percent of 311,000 children are overdue. "Now is not the time to put our guard down," the Texas health department's Carrie Williams said.
Despite recent drops in illnesses nationally, the virus continues to circulate, and a third wave could happen this winter, as it did in the 1957-58 flu pandemic, said Beth Bell, an influenza specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although one dose is enough for older children, those younger than 10 need two doses given about a month apart to make enough antibodies to be fully protected, Bell said. The booster is still effective even if given weeks late, she said.
There are no national data on the second doses.
USA Today surveyed 14 states that the CDC says require all H1N1 doses be recorded in registries. Ten responded.
Registries may undercount doses because of delays in reporting. Still, it's an indication that many children remain at risk amid growing public complacency, said Patrick O'Neal, emergency preparedness director at Georgia's health department.