There are a lot of questions surrounding the H1N1 pandemic flu virus and its local implications. Here are some answers:
The Centers for Disease Control priority groups for vaccination with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine include all of the following when quantities of vaccine are available in limited supplies:
• Pregnant women
• People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
• Health care and emergency medical services personnel
• People between 6 months and 24 years
• People 25 through 64 with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems
Where will priority groups get H1N1 vaccination locally?
The Chelan-Douglas Health District is talking with local health care partners. They are coordinating plans for two or three mass clinics, school clinics for rural areas without local flu vaccine options, and additional flu clinic sites for H1N1 vaccine to reach priority populations in the most efficient ways in our smaller communities.
Twenty-four local health care vaccinators have signed up so far to participate as H1N1 vaccination sites. The health district will allocate vaccine supplies, making local supplies available in the best way possible to reach priority groups. Discussions are ongoing with our local health care partners regarding H1N1 flu vaccine outreach plans.
When will H1N1 vaccine be available?
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to arrive here in October. We are planning on clinic dates beginning in late October and running through December. For children, it’s possible a second dose may be needed three or four weeks after the first dose.
Why are senior citizens not a priority group?
We have great news for senior citizens. It seems that many people between 50 and 63 and most people 64 and older have some natural immunity to this swine flu strain. People over 64 who would like to get this vaccine will be asked to wait until all priority groups have had a chance to receive their shots. Please be patient. The timing of this depends on the amount of vaccine received and when it is received locally. As soon as vaccine is plentiful, the vaccine will be available to all people 25 to 64 and senior citizens.
Please note senior citizens should continue to be first in line for a yearly seasonal flu shot. These flu shots are available now through November. People can help by getting their seasonal flu shots earlier this year.
Mary Small is publication information officer and director of community health and preparedness for the Chelan-Douglas Health District.