Flu shots slow to arrive
Published 6:23 am Monday, October 12, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
H1N1 flu vaccine clinics at schools could happen around the first of November, health officials said Thursday, noting that the vaccine is arriving in Alabama a bit slower than they expected.
The state would like to have 2.8 million doses of the vaccine, but will likely only have half of those by early December, said state health officer Dr. Donald Williamson.
As of Thursday, the state had received only about 5,300 doses of the H1N1 vaccine. Another 24,000 were expected to arrive Friday.
The state has plans to use schools as mass voluntary vaccination centers, so much of the vaccine the state gets in the next few weeks will be set aside for that purpose.
Williamson said there are about 900,000 students and teachers statewide in public and private schools.
Because the vaccinations at schools are voluntary, the state health department does not know how many of those 900,000 students and teachers will be vaccinated at schools.
Although the nasal mist vaccine is approved for people between the ages of 2 and 49, schools will use the injectible vaccinations. Written permission will be required for students to receive a vaccination.
The nasal mist vaccine is not for pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems and those with chronic diseases such as cancer, obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or diabetes.
Alabama has had 16 deaths associated with H1N1 flu, with none of those deaths in Escambia County.
Williamson said that about 8.1 percent of doctors’ office visits are related to flu-like symptoms, down from a peak of 10 percent. Fourteen to 18 percent of emergency room visits are associated with flu-like symptoms, with 2 to 5 percent of those patients being hospitalized.
When H1N1 vaccines become more available, the state health department will have a function on its Web site to show readers where the vaccine is available in their zip codes. The health department Web site is located at www.adph.org.