Public Offered H1N1 Vaccinations
Those who have not received their H1N1 influenza vaccination will soon have two opportunities to catch up.
The Moore County Health Department will hold a special clinic Friday afternoon and again on Thursday, Jan. 7, in an effort to reach residents who have missed the vaccination. The hours are 2 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the Health Center on Pinehurst Avenue in Carthage.
"The sooner you get the vaccination, the better off you are," said Robert Wittmann, county health director.
Although there were shortages of vaccine against both H1N1 and seasonal flu earlier in the fall, supplies are picking up and vaccinations are available at a number of clinics and doctors' offices in the private sector.
Wittmann says there are no reported cases of seasonal flu in North Carolina at this time, but incidence of H1N1, a new variety identified early this year, has been widespread throughout the state and other states. However, he says the number of cases has dropped off in recent weeks, signaling a decline in the disease.
For its initial shipment of the H1N1 vaccine, the Moore County Health Department directed its distribution through clinics in the schools. The department will administer the vaccine at the final school on that schedule Thursday. Then the clinic will be opened to the public during the special hours Friday afternoon.
Wittmann said he hopes that any children who missed getting the vaccination at their schools will take advantage of the Friday clinic. But children are not the only ones who can receive the vaccine during the 2-6:30 p.m. clinic Friday. Anyone, whether a member of a target group or not, may receive the vaccine Friday, and the vaccinations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, with no appointments or priority designation.
"It's free, because the federal government is providing the vaccine to us, and we have decided not to charge an administrative fee," Wittmann said.
Vaccine against both H1N1 flu and seasonal flu is also available at many doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies and other businesses, but availability varies. Some doctors did not order any vaccine this year.
Wittmann said that the Health Department in the past has not ordered large quantities of flu vaccine because the vaccine was generally available in the private sector. Many doctors order a supply for their patients and not for the general public.
The department did veer from that practice a few years ago when there was a shortage of flu vaccine and again this year because of the unusual circumstances of the H1N1 flu, more commonly referred to as swine flu.
"What's going around now is H1N1 flu," Wittmann said. "Seasonal flu usually peaks in January and February. There is still time to get the regular vaccine."
So far, cases of seasonal flu have not been diagnosed here, but that disease is expected in the next two months, the regular flu season.
It is the season difference that constitutes the major contrast between H1N1 flu and seasonal flu. Whereas seasonal flu usually peaks in the winter months, H1N1 startled health professionals by striking late last spring and continuing through the summer into the fall months.
The new variety was not identified until too late for manufacturers to incorporate H1N1 protection into the regular flu vaccine, resulting in production of two types of vaccine, one for H1N1, the other for seasonal flu. This delayed the process, causing consternation within the public as well as health professions.
Priority for the H1N1 vaccine was directed to certain target groups, including children, young adults, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. Despite a few exceptions, it was believed that older people were not as vulnerable to H1N1 flu as young people, and the elderly were not targeted for immunization against H1N1 as they are for seasonal flu.
Wittmann said his department ordered the seasonal flu vaccine this year but, because of widespread shortages, received none. The department did receive enough H1N1 vaccine to conduct clinics in the public schools, charter schools and participating private schools. Vaccinations were offered to students, with parental or guardian permission, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Teresa Forrest, planning manager for the department's Public Health Preparedness and Response team, says additional clinics will be scheduled if needed.
More information about the flu vaccine is available by calling the department at (910) 947-3300 or visiting the Web site at www. moore countync.gov/health.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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