10/11/09 — Health Dept. preps for H1N1 vaccines

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Health Dept. preps for H1N1 vaccines

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 11, 2009 2:00 AM

Health officials are bracing for the arrival of the first batch of H1N1 vaccines, with plans to distribute initial doses to those most at risk.

On the heels of the announcement that Wake County had received 3,500 doses of H1N1 nasal spray, Wayne County Health Department is anticipating its own portion, Health Director James Roosen said Friday.

"Right now it's going to come trickling in," he said. "We expect a couple hundred doses and our job is going to be identifying the high risk people in our community that need it."

At the outset, the "high risk folks" targeted will include pregnant women and children between the ages of 2 and 24, said Roosen, noting, "The quicker we get it into people, the better."

With two different strains of flu virus to deal with this year, the Health Department has worked feverishly to keep up, Roosen said.

"We have got the seasonal flu vaccine and we're giving that at the Health Department right now by appointment only," he said. "We have got, I think, about 1,000 seasonal flu vaccines and that's injectable."

The first shipment of H1N1 vaccines will be the nasal spray. The quantity, though, is still uncertain, as is a projected date when the shot version will be received.

"Right now we're just looking at the flu mist, for those between 2 years old and 49 who qualify," Roosen explained. "Eventually, we'd like to vaccinate everyone who wants it."

Once received, the H1N1 vaccine will be offered free of charge, Roosen said. The seasonal flu vaccine, meanwhile, is $25 through the Health Department, which then bills Medicare and Medicaid.

As soon as the coveted vaccines arrive, the health director said there are about 20 local physicians offices in line to receive them.

"All I can speak for is the Health Department, but the plan is (that) pediatricians, O.B. physicians and Health Departments will be getting the vaccines first," he said. "Once production increases, all physicians will be getting them."

A flu clinic is being planned for the public, with a target date of Oct. 23 being mentioned, Roosen said. Ideally, he said he would anticipate between 400 and 500 vaccinations being given out.

In the meantime, he suggested the public take advantage of the seasonal flu vaccine, noting that there has not been any problem found in receiving both the regular vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine.

"You can get both at the same time if it's an injection but if you take the mist, it has to be 30 days apart," he said. "The only thing we're trying to do right now is reach as many people as possible to make sure they're vaccinated against seasonal flu and H1N1.

"We're talking to all our community partners and trying to do to the best we can."

The News-Argus also contacted Goldsboro Pediatrics, where a spokesperson said no doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been received yet.