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Monday, June 24, 2024

State stuck with excess vaccine

Fears of a swine flu epidemic last year prompted state officials to stock up on vaccine, to a degree that’s since proven to be excessive.

Three million doses of the vaccine are now stowed in refrigerated cabinets all over the country. “There’s no point in trying to return any of it,” Dr Øystein Søbstad of the health department in Bergen told newspaper Bergens Tidende. “The vaccine is sensitive, and has to be stored and handled at the right temperature.”

State health authorities scrambled to get enough of the vaccine into Norway when it was needed last fall. Even so, thousands of patients had to wait and all those eager to be vaccinated had to accept being served according to their priority in the queue.

Swine flu did break out around the country, with new figures showing it was behind much of the national sick leave rate that climbed to 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Believing a second round of vaccinations may be necessary, the state bought twice as much as turned out to be needed. Health officials still think it was better to be safe than sorry.

“You don’t regret having bought insurance even though your house hasn’t burned down,” said Ingvar Tveit of Bergen’s health department. The vaccine in Norway is good until next year, in case any of it will be needed.

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