The phones are ringing non-stop at the Cook County public health department's H1N1 vaccine hotline with people trying to schedule an appointment to get the swine flu shot. Authorities set up the phone bank to help calm fears over the availability of the vaccine as supplies continue to lag far behind demand.
"We didn't want to see long lines and as the snow is coming down. The appointments allow folks to know where to go and when to go and make sure we have enough to take care of them," said Dr. Stephen Martin, Cook County Department of Public Health.
Lake County health department clinics ran out Friday morning as people waited in long lines to get the vaccine, either by injection or nasal mist. The lines were cut off at five locations in Mundelein, Gurnee, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan and North Chicago as over 4,100 swine flu vaccine doses that were expected to last through the weekend were used up. Saturday and Sunday's clinic hours have been cancelled.
Friday, health officials from the Centers for Disease Control Reported that the swine flu is now widespread in all but two states and estimate that millions of Americans have been infected but only suffer a mild illness.
The CDC released statistics that show H1N1 has caused at least 19 more children to die -- the largest one week increase since the pandemic began in April. To date, at least 114 children have died from swine flu complications.
"In a usual flu season, 90 percent of deaths in people over the age of 65. In H1N1, 90 percent of the deaths are in people under the age of 65," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, Centers for Disease Control.
That is the reason why officials say the initial additional vaccine doses will first go to priority groups, like pregnant women, children, people up to 24 years of age, adults with certain health conditions and others most at risk as they ask the public not to panic.
"Just be patient; the vaccine is coming," said Dr. Martin.
Cook County initially received 20,000 doses of the H1N1 inoculations and after that an additional 50,000. But because of the national shortage, many hospitals, doctors and other counties have been slow in getting additional supplies.
Cook County also plans to vaccinate students at school-based clinics. And the vaccine also will be available at licensed daycare centers.