10/15/06 — Plenty of flu vaccine expected for Wayne, Duplin

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Plenty of flu vaccine expected for Wayne, Duplin

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on October 15, 2006 2:01 AM



News-Argus Staff Writers

There should be enough flu vaccines this year for everyone who wants one, said officials at the Health Department.

With the flu season fast approaching, officials said they have been readying for the arrival of the vaccines, at which time they'll also announce the date for this year's mass vaccination clinic. There will also be two sites for this year's clinics.

The public need not worry; there'll be plenty, said David Hesselmeyer, bioterrorism planner coordinator with the Health Department.

"The word that we have got, there's not going to be any shortage of vaccines....The state Health Director and others have spoken and said there should be enough vaccinations for everyone who wants one," he said. "We've ordered. Because they're not anticipating a shortage, there should be no problem getting those doses."

Several smaller businesses have already begun giving flu shots. The Health Department began its ordering process back in August, Hesselmeyer said.

His office is in constant communication with the vaccine manufacturer, he added. In the meantime, officials plan to be ready to activate when the doses arrive in Wayne County.

"One of my concentrations now is planning for this clinic, so that we're going to be held up by anything other than the vaccines, " Hesselmeyer said.

Last year's mass vaccination clinic, held Oct. 29 at Goldsboro Middle School, received a lot of praise, he said. Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., about 1,600 people received vaccinations. The wait time averaged about 20 minutes.

Hesselmeyer said this year's clinic is expected to be held in November and will be structured much the same as the first time around.

"We're trying to get more volunteers this year. Hopefully we'll get people in and out quicker," he said.

Hesselmeyer said instead of operating one clinic site at Goldsboro Middle School, a second will be added at Southern Wayne High School.

The Health Department is fortunate to have support from other agencies collaborating on the project, Hesselmeyer said. Red Cross, Wayne Memorial Hospital, Wayne County Office of Emergency Services and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, for example, have coordinated the efforts and provided input and support for the mass clinic.

The message for the public right now, he said, is to "spread the word that we'll be getting the flu vaccines; we will have a clinic.

"As soon as we get (the vaccines), we will be putting it out there in full force."

Information is also available on the Health Department's website, www.waynegov.com/health, and will be publicized through the media.

The upcoming mass vaccination clinic will be a large exercise, Hesselmeyer said, which means the need for additional volunteers to staff it. For more information, updates or to volunteer, call the Health Department at 731-1000.

In Duplin County, health officials feel confident they'll have enough doses this year to cover everybody who wants one.

"We gave 1,400 to 1,500 doses last year," said Duplin County Health Director Ila Davis.

This year, the department is ordering 1,000 doses for general use and is being given about 300 more by the state for children 6 to 36 months and for pregnant women.

But, department officials emphasized, they do not expect those doses to cover the whole of Duplin County.

"Flu vaccines are offered by so many other providers, there shouldn't be any problem with people getting them," Davis said.

And, added nursing director Beth Ricci, "We can order more. We've been told there's no danger of shortages from the state or private providers."

But don't go looking for the vaccines at the health department just yet.

"We have a very small amount of vaccine right now and we haven't even started giving them yet. We're waiting until we get at least half of the vaccine and then we'll be giving them Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," she said.

She is, however, expecting the doses to be available within a matter of weeks. The department will charge private insurance and/or Medicare or Medicaid for the vaccines. Those given to the high-risk children are free.

"I'm hoping we'll get them in toward the end of October or the beginning of November. That's still a good time frame to be getting a flu vaccine," she said.

The flu season typically begins by December, but doesn't peak until January or February.

And though flu vaccines are recommended for all people, those at the highest risk for complications include -- children aged 6-59 months, pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. Household contacts or caregivers for these people also are at risk for flu.

"We will be vaccinating the nursing homes that requested it, but we would do first come, first serve (after that)," Davis said.