What H1N1 taught the US about delivering pandemic vaccines

The 2009 pandemic caused by H1N1 pales in comparison to coronavirus. Just six months after the first case of the flu variant was detected on US soil, doctors had a vaccine in hand. Technically, the pandemic was over by the time they could administer the shots.

The H1N1 vaccine was deployed ideally—with urgency, but not necessity. It also spurred a dramatic change in vaccine delivery that’s lasted to this day: It triggered laws that allow retail pharmacists to administer vaccines within their communities. Now, as the race for a Covid-19 vaccine continues, that groundwork could make it easier to immunize against the novel coronavirus once a shot reaches the market.

In the US, a number of different healthcare providers can administer vaccines, from clinical nurses to midwives. But H1N1 highlighted the need for pharmacists to administer immunizations. It’s much more convenient to drop into a pharmacy than it is to schedule an appointment at a doctor’s office, and in a pandemic situation where large populations need to get vaccinated at the same time, the healthcare system needs all hands on deck.

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