Seasonal flu shots not ready
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Saturday, August 22, 2009
8/22/09 at 5:18 AM
Although both the state and city health departments were considering offering the seasonal flu vaccine to residents in September, both agencies say they still don't know when shots will be available because they haven't received their vaccine shipments.
"We don't know yet when we'll get them," said Leslea Bennet-Webb, spokeswoman for the state Health Department.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended seasonal flu shots be offered starting a month early, in September, to space them apart from the expected swine flu vaccine.
That vaccine is expected to arrive in mid-October.
Bennet-Webb said the state ordered 455,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccine this year from a variety of vendors and will distribute them to county health departments.
"We try to spread it around," Bennet-Webb said. The order process began in late April as usual, she said.
Public health departments provide 25 to 30 percent of total flu vaccine doses each year in the state, she said. The remainder is offered by private physicians and groups such as the Visiting Nurse Association, and often they get the vaccine earlier.
The Visiting Nurse Association of Tulsa will be offering seasonal flu immunizations Oct. 1, according to the group's Web site.
The health department typically doesn't get its vaccines until October and sometimes November, she said. But it is pushing to have these by mid- to late September.
Bennet-Webb said the agency is trying to get the seasonal flu shots out to county health departments sooner because the swine flu vaccine is expected to arrive in mid-October.
"We are actually trying to move up that schedule for this year so the two vaccination campaigns don't collide," she said.
The Tulsa Health Department is in a "holding pattern" as it awaits its supply, said spokeswoman Cricket Letourneau.
"We don't schedule our drive-through vaccine clinics until we get our vaccine," she said.
About 36,000 people die from the seasonal flu each year. Those most susceptible to seasonal flu complications or death are people over 50 years of age, children ages 6 months to 19, pregnant women, people of any age with a chronic medical condition, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, health-care workers and caregivers.
National and state health officials urge people to get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine, which will be a two-shot series.
Federal health officials have said there have been some problems in brewing the swine flu vaccine so the amount of it available by mid-October may be down significantly from what was expected.
Five groups have been deemed most susceptible to serious complications or death from the swine flu, and have been advised to be immunized, including pregnant women, health-care workers, young people ages 6 months to 24 years, people caring for infants under six months of age, and people ages 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Schools told to look to health departments for advice on swine flu
State Superintendent Sandy
Garrett on Friday urged the
state’s school superintendents
in a letter to rely closely on their
county health departments’
advice about swine flu.
“There is no reason to panic
about forecasts for an aggressive
flu season,” she wrote. “Yet,
we must arm ourselves with
information and be prepared.
Garrett reiterated information
about how to reduce swine
flu transmission and urged
state superintendents to form
partnerships with their county
Dismissal of students due
to a swine flu outbreak “is very
much a local decision,” she
wrote. Schools should rely on
county health departments for
advice about closures, she said.
The U.S. Department of Education
has said it will be flexible
with federal accountability and
average daily attendance if a
school is recommended to temporarily
close, Garrett wrote.
She said the state board will
do the same and will ensure
schools won’t be financially
penalized by closing if needed.
“We are advised that, in most
instances, schools will not be
urged by local health authorities
to temporarily close,” Garrett
Kim Archer 581-8315
A Tulsan is given a flu shot by a nurse at the Tulsa City-County Health Department last winter. This year's vaccine hasn't yet arrived. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World file