H1N1 vaccines expected today or Friday | SteamboatToday.com

H1N1 vaccines expected today or Friday

More due later for general public

Brandon Gee

— An initial shipment of 100 swine flu vaccines is due in Routt County today or Friday, but the shots will be reserved for priority groups such as health care providers with direct patient contact.

H1N1 vaccines will become generally available in the coming weeks as the county receives more shipments. Although the annual seasonal flu vaccine is more widely available, local public health officials said there could be shortages of it, as well. Health agencies are recommending everyone receive both vaccines this flu season.

“It may be a month before it’s opened up to everyone. It all depends on the supply,” said Janice Poirot, a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, about the H1N1 vaccine. “No one knows for sure. As more vaccine is delivered across the country, the eligible groups will broaden.”

As Routt County’s public health agency, the VNA will receive and be responsible for administering the county’s supply of the vaccine. Steve Hilley, infection prevention coordinator with Yampa Valley Medical Center, said the hospital will receive an allotment of the initial shipment for some of its employees.

The VNA is following federal guidelines for distribution of the vaccine as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC recommends people in the following groups receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine first: pregnant women; people who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months; health care and emergency medical personnel; anyone from 6 months to 24 years old; and anyone from 25 to 64 years old with certain chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.

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Younger people have been prioritized more than older adults and seniors because, unlike the seasonal flu, they have proven more susceptible to contracting this particular strain of influenza.

The first shipments of the vaccine are in a nasal-spray form. Poirot said this further narrows the priority groups because the spray is not recommended for certain people including pregnant women and people younger than 2 or older than 49. Poirot said later shipments will include injections similar to the annual seasonal flu shot.

Two million doses of H1N1 nasal-spray vaccine were distributed nationally this week, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Colorado received 53,000 doses. A second shipment of 4 million doses is expected to be distributed nationally beginning Friday, according to the state health department.

“We don’t have any definites yet,” VNA spokeswoman Suzi Mariano said, “but it’s on its way.”

Routt County had its first case of H1N1 in June, and numbers have been on the rise since school started this fall. There were no H1N1-associated hospitalizations in Routt County between Aug. 30 and Oct. 3, according to the state health department. There were 256 such hospitalizations statewide in that period.

Seasonal flu viruses change from year to year but are closely related to one another. A new and additional vaccination is required for H1N1 because it is a new flu virus very different from others, according to the CDC, and most people have little to no immunity to it.

The CDC recommends everyone receive both vaccines as soon as possible this flu season. Although most will have to wait to receive the H1N1 vaccine, the regular seasonal flu vaccine is more widely available.

However, Mariano said a person’s ability to receive the seasonal flu vaccine will vary case by case.

“It looks like there is a delay in shipment of the seasonal flu vaccine,” Mariano said. “We’re going to shift our focus to only high-risk adults.”

Mariano said there are plenty of doses available for children, and some health care providers may have more seasonal flu vaccines on hand than others. For more information, contact your health care provider.