Health care workers lined up Tuesday to be innoculated against swine flu as the United States began a massive campaign aiming to vaccinate 250 million people against the illness by year's end.
"The H1N1 vaccine is being rolled out right now," Norman Edelman, a professor of preventive medicine and internal medicine at the State University of New York and spokesman for the American Lung Association, told AFP.
"The highest priority group are health care workers and, as we speak, the vaccine is flowing to health care workers," said Edelman, whose organization is being used by US health authorities to coordinate the vaccination campaign.
The health care workers on the frontlines of the ambitious program will get a squirt up the nose, not a shot in the arm, as the nasal spray vaccine has rolled off production lines ahead of the injectable variety.
Some 600,000 doses of swine flu vaccine have been shipped out to public health authorities in 21 states and four large cities -- Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
The vaccines are being distributed by the federal government to "various localities who have determined their own vaccination strategy," Edelman said.
For example, said Edelman, when the vaccine is widely available in New York City, which was hit hard by (A)H1N1 when it first broke out earlier this year, children will be immunized in their schools, "rather than asking parents to take their kids to the doctor."
Children and health care workers are among five groups that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended be given priority for the H1N1 vaccine.
The other at-risk groups who the CDC has recommended should be vaccinated first are pregnant women, people in contact with infants, and adults under the age of 65 with underlying medical conditions.
But many will not be able to have the nasal spray vaccine as it was contraindicated for pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.
Vaccinations have already been administered to doctors, nurses, first responders such as firemen and other health personnel in the states of Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).