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H1N1 In The Heartland

Notes from the front lines of the battle against H1N1.

So, I've spent part of yesterday and most of today at the University of Kansas Hospital covering the first H1N1 flu shots being administered.

Earlier this week the hospital got 1,100 H1N1 doses from the local county health department. 500 are AstraZeneca's FluMist and 500 are in multi-dose vials (10 each) of Sanofi-Aventis' injectable vaccine. They also got another 100 individual doses in syringes that don't contain thimerosal.

That's the preservative and decontaminant that some people are afraid of. Those shots are specifically earmarked for expectant mothers.

There's been a line for the vaccines nearly the whole time the "Shot Stop" has been open.

For now, at the direction of the health department, the hospital's H1N1 task force is offering the vaccine only to staffers in the ER, pediatrics and obstetrics and to pregnant employees and patients. For people who work on the front lines here the H1N1 vaccine is mandatory, for others it's "encouraged."

Just to be clear, the shot I got live on MSNBC today was a seasonal flu vaccine. I, along with thousands of others at the U of K Hospital, have to wait for the H1N1 vaccine to be more widely available because I'm not in the so-called high priority group. The CDC says that should be around the end of this month. It'll give the first weekly update on vaccine supply and distribution tomorrow.

As far as H1N1 activity here is concerned, anecdotally, one adult with a confirmed case is in the ICU and a one-year-old with a confirmed case is in the pediatric ICU. The nearby Children's Mercy Hospital has had more serious cases, including one that was featured on ABC's "Nightline" a couple days ago.

U of K Hospital says there have been a few instances where, for a short time, the ER has had to send ambulances to other hospitals because it's been so full due to the flu.

Nonetheless, the hospital's H1N1 task force chief says the ER is ready to handle a potential outbreak.

But he candidly calls the overall situation "a story of shortages." He's referring to the availability of vaccines, masks, respirators, etc.

I don't think I've ever used as much hand sanitizer and disinfectant as I have today. I hear someone coughing down the hall right now and it makes me nervous. I'm anxious to get my H1N1 shot, but I will wait my turn.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman