H1N1 Vaccine Arrives In Palo Alto County
For months, two primary questions about H1N1 influenza have been circulating. When will the H1N1 vaccine arrive and who should get it? The first question has been answered as very small shipments of the H1N1 vaccine begin arriving in Palo Alto County.
“Allocation of the vaccine to Palo Alto County is being determined by the state according to population,” said Peg McNally, Palo Alto County Community Health Director. “We have received small shipments of the vaccine and are told we will continue to receive the vaccine through the winter months.”
As for who should receive the vaccine, Palo Alto County is following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, which state the H1N1 vaccine should first be made available to the following priority groups:
• pregnant women,
• people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
• health care and emergency medical services personnel,
• persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age, and
• people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
“Representatives from the Palo Alto County Board of Health and the medical staff have made recommendations to our agency as to who we should begin vaccinating with the first shipments of vaccine,” commented McNally. “Because the first shipment of H1N1 vaccine is in the form of a nasal spray, which is not recommended for some people (such as pregnant women, children with asthma, or those over age 49 years or under age 2), this determines in what order we can vaccinate as well.”
McNally noted that one major difference between the seasonal flu and the H1N1 is the focus on children. With the seasonal flu, senior citizens are at a high risk, but with H1N1, younger populations seem to be at greater risk. The CDC reports that the confirmed illness and severity of illness from H1N1 has been consistent with the highest rates of persons were among those age 5 to 24 years. The lowest incidence of infection was among persons with ages 65 and over.
McNally continues, “Our plan is to follow the CDC guidelines and vaccinate the priority group based on those who match the type of vaccine we receive. We will vaccinate direct line health care workers first to prevent them from infecting other healthy patients. The next targeted group will be pregnant women and households with children under age 6 months. As vaccine arrives each week, we will continue to vaccinate those in the priority group as appropriate”.
As availability of vaccine increases, Palo Alto County Community Health Services will set up public clinics targeting those in the priority group. For information on these clinics and who is eligible, check your local media or the hospital’s web site at www.pachs.com.
The seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine can be given at the same time and at any time in any sequence with one exception: if using the live nasal spray vaccine for both the seasonal flu and H1N1, they should be given 4 weeks apart to ensure the best protection from both vaccines.
In addition, it remains important to take personal actions to prevent the spread of the virus:
• Cover your cough,
• Clean your hands, and
• Contain germs by staying home when ill.
A statewide toll-free hotline has been established for public questions about seasonal and H1N1 influenza at 1-800-447-1985. More information can also be found at www.idph.state.ia.us