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As Interest in H1N1 Vaccine Wanes, a Surplus Is Feared

Health officials across the U.S. have been worrying for months that there won't be enough H1N1 vaccine to immunize everyone who needs protection against the flu virus.

But this week, some officials in central Ohio said there may be a surplus due to waning public interest.

A spokesman for U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it’s too soon to tell if there will be a surplus.

"Supply and demand varies across the country," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC. "Some areas have a greater demand than supply, and other areas vice versa. Whether there will be a surplus or not is hard to say right now."

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Skinner said the CDC will not be surprised if there is an uptick in flu activity after the New Year, which would definitely drive up the demand.

"We have a window of opportunity to get people vaccinated in that we’re seeing declines in flu activity across the country, but we may see the uptick later," Skinner said. "We definitely want people to get vaccinated – particularly those in high-risk groups."

People in high-risk groups include pregnant women, young adults, children and anyone with a compromised immune system, or pre-existing condition, such as asthma.

Many counties across the country, including those in Texas and Tennessee, are making the vaccine available to everyone – not just those in high-risk groups. In central Ohio, for example, everyone who is at least 6 months old is eligible to get the vaccine.

Fewer states are seeing widespread H1N1 activity, but the seasonal flu virus is starting to make an appearance.

"More than 110 million out of 114 million doses (of the seasonal flu vaccine) have been distributed, so people who want to get vaccinated and have not gotten vaccinated may have to look around for it," Skinner said.

Studies are showing that the H1N1 virus is less serious than initially feared -- at its worst, the virus is only a little more serious than the seasonal flu, according to researchers at Harvard University.

Still, 50 million Americans have been sickened by the virus and 10,000 have died from it in the first seven months of the pandemic.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this article.