Swine flu vaccination rates vary wildly from state to state

Vaccination rates for the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus have varied widely around the country, with New England having the highest rates and the South having the lowest, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week.

Rhode Island had the highest rate of vaccination for swine flu, with about 39% of its population immunized, while Mississippi had the lowest rate, with 13% receiving the shot, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Among children, Georgia had the lowest vaccination rate, at 21%. Georgia now has the highest level of ongoing swine flu activity of any state.

“It’s possible” that the two are related, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Thursday. “It’s also possible that they are a herald of what could happen in other states.” Georgia and other Southern states were the first affected in last fall’s second wave of swine flu.

California was in the middle of the pack, with 31.2% of children younger than 18 vaccinated, along with 27.7% of young adults in targeted high-risk groups and 13.9% of those aged 25 to 64 who were at average risk.

The survey results, which included vaccinations through mid-February, indicate that 72 million to 81 million Americans were inoculated against swine flu. That means about 1 in 4 people in the U.S. were vaccinated, though there was wide variation among states.

“We had a great success with children and a greater success with the target population than the population in general,” Schuchat said. “Overall, the country did an extraordinary job in responding.”

The vaccination effort among healthcare workers was less successful, however. About 62% of them received seasonal flu vaccinations -- the highest rate in recent years -- but only 37% of them got a swine flu shot. The highest rates were among those who worked in intensive care units, in burn units and with obstetric patients.