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CDPH Won't Discuss Distribution Of H1N1 Vaccine

KCRA 3 Gets Letter In Response To Public Records Request

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When the H1N1 flu pandemic began, there was a serious shortage of vaccine.

In November, KCRA 3 and other news organizations began asking the California Department of Public Health how these limited supplies were being distributed.

Since the H1N1 vaccine clinics began, the state public health department has been ordering and directing vaccine shipments.

The great majority went to private hospitals and clinics -- like Kaiser Permanente -- well-organized to quickly vaccinate patients in the target groups.

When some early supplies in New York went to firms on Wall Street, questions were raised. After all the vaccine is produced and shipped entirely at public expense.

When California officials were questioned about distribution here, they delayed answering. Finally, KCRA 3 received a letter responding to the TV station's public records request.

"Private providers could be easily overwhelmed by phone calls from non-patients anxious to be vaccinated. If we make public the names of private providers, they might withdraw from the distribution system," the CDPH said in a statement.

On Thursday, the state health director defended the decision.

"It was our judgment that there was significant threat going forward to the vaccination process … we feel the public has more than adequate information available to them about where vaccine in available in their community," Dr. Mark Horton said.

Meanwhile, a prominent consumer group disagrees with that claim.

"The public wants to be sure that the vaccine was distributed fairly and without favoritism. We have no evidence [of problems] in California, but when the state refuses to release information, it reduces our trust and raises suspicion," Consumer Watchdog said.

Nobody is accusing California officials of wrongdoing, but by with holding the information, there is no way to check.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vaccine is available in abundance, and because there's plenty to meet demand, consumer advocates said it's unlikely that private clinics need protection from the public.