Flu shots on way
Published 5:37 am Tuesday, October 6, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Doctors can begin ordering vaccines for H1N1 flu this week, state health officials said Monday.
Health officer Dr. Donald Williamson said that more than 1,000 health care providers in Alabama have said they want to order the H1N1 vaccine for their patients. The state health department has established an online ordering system for the vaccines, which will be shipped as soon as they are available.
The state continues to experience widespread flu-like illnesses, Williamson said, with about 18 percent of emergency room patients and 9 percent of patients at doctors’ offices reporting flu-like symptoms.
Not all of those cases have been tested for flu, but of 51 positive specimens tested last week, 50 were confirmed as 2009 H1N1 influenza, health officials said.
With so many cases of flu or flu-like symptoms, the health department has had to dip into a national stockpile of antiviral medications, distributing 64,000 of the 700,000 courses stockpiled.
Alabama has also had eight deaths related to H1N1 influenza, in Bullock, Dale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Macon, Montgomery and Russell counties.
The state health department plans to use schools as voluntary clinics for H1N1 vaccinations, although no date has been set yet to begin administering the shots. Only one H1N1 vaccination will be necessary for individuals over 9 years old, health officials said.
But Elliot said a seasonal flu vaccine clinic is planned for Thursday at the Brewton location of the Escambia County Health Department.
The clinic will be held from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. that day, Elliott said.
During the first week in October approximately 51,000 doses of H1N1 live virus nasal mist influenza vaccine are expected to be delivered to Alabama for distribution to health care providers for targeted at-risk populations.
By Nov. 1 the state of Alabama should receive approximately 500,000 doses of vaccine. The state health department has launched a toll-free influenza information hotline for the public at 877-377-7285, operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for information and referrals. Other information is available at www.adph.org.