First there wasn't enough swine flu vaccine, then there was plenty, and now it turns out that many countries may have too much. Out in Vancouver, Canadian health officials say that the initial clamor for the vaccine has been followed by a rapid drop in demand.
Slightly more than half of the 4 million doses acquired by the province have been used, but as demand has slid mass immunization clinics in malls and schools are being shut down. Health officials have recorded 47 deaths, but the infection rate is dropping off as the H1N1 epidemic peaked and then tailed off. And with fewer infections to report, public demand is fading fast.
In Europe, lingering concerns about side effects seem to be severely damping down demand for the new vaccine. Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Ireland report that only 10 percent of the population was vaccinated. "If it's not in the news anymore and if people don't experience a lot of severe cases, to them it's just a flu and not a pandemic flu in a way," said Christian Ruef, an infectious disease expert in Zurich.
Dr. Perry Kendall, chief provincial health officer in British Columbia, says that only about 40 percent of the population has been vaccinated. If necessary, excess doses might be held for later use or donated to other countries that couldn't afford the vaccine.