ATLANTA - After weeks of shortages, swine flu vaccine is plentiful enough, officials maintain, that nearly half the states now say everyone can get it, not just people in high-risk groups.
New Jersey yesterday became the latest state to announce expanded eligibility, a day after Pennsylvania dropped restrictions, although some people in both states say they can't find a shot.
At the same time, health officials face a challenge: how to keep persuading people to get vaccinated when swine flu is waning.
"We're worried that people might be thinking, 'Out of sight, out of mind,' " said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Robert Gogats, the public-health coordinator in Burlington County, issued a personal plea that people take seriously the possibility that swine flu could return soon, perhaps in more severe form. "The 2009 H1N1 influenza story is not over yet," he wrote.
The swine flu vaccine supply started with just a trickle from manufacturers in early October, leading doctors to reserve it for pregnant women, people with asthma, children and young adults, and others at high risk of being very ill.
But now 95 million doses are available, and 10 million more are coming out every week. Health officials in 24 states have lifted their recommended restrictions, said Paula Steib, spokeswoman for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
More than 100 mostly healthy people showed up for vaccinations at a Walgreens pharmacy in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, the day the Illinois Health Department lifted its restrictions.
Larry Richmond, a Chicago lawyer who is not in any high-risk group, said, "I'm concerned about the spread of the virus and thought it the prudent thing to do."
Demand is also high in parts of the country that still have reports of swine flu, including New York and parts of New England, health officials say.
But even many areas where infections are dropping, some physicians report that they do not have vaccine.In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, many providers were still restricting vaccine to priority groups. That was the case for two counties that are holding new clinics.
Burlington County will hold four clinics Dec. 29 and 30 for two sets of priority groups. Information: 609-265-5548.
Gloucester County, which had scheduled a vaccine clinic for 4 to 6 p.m. today at the county Institute of Technology's gym in Sewell, added another for 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 29 at the government services building in Clayton. Both are limited to the same overall target groups as Burlington County. Call 856-218-4141.
Details of these and other clinics are posted at http://go.philly.com/flu