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Restrictions on Eligibility for H1N1 Vaccine Removed
December 11, 2009
Port Angeles: Effective Monday, December 14, 2009, the Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap County Health jurisdictions will jointly remove all eligibility restrictions for the H1N1 influenza vaccine in the three-county area. This means all persons who have been patiently waiting to receive the H1N1 vaccine but did not fall into a federally designated priority group will now be able to immunized against H1N1 influenza (also known as “Swine Flu”).
Due to initial shortages of this federally supplied vaccine, access was limited to those with the highest risk of influenza complications: pregnant women, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions. As vaccine supplies increased eligibility was expanded to include everyone up to age 24. Effective December 14, 2009 vaccine supplies appear adequate enough to offer the vaccine to everyone, including all adults, irrespective of age or health status.
The H1N1 pandemic has caused two distinct outbreak “waves” in the United States, the first beginning in late April and cresting in May and the second beginning in September and cresting in late October. A third wave of H1N1 is expected to occur during the regular flu season that typically occurs between January and March in Washington State. Health officials are expecting to see 4 distinct types of influenza this winter – the third wave of the H1N1 pandemic along with the 3 types of the influenza virus that typically circulate each year. To be fully protected against influenza infection this year requires two separate vaccines: one for H1N1 Influenza and the other for Seasonal Flu.
Studies of the 10’s of millions of people who have already received the H1N1 vaccine show it to be very safe. Supplies of the vaccine are increasing rapidly and all who wish to be vaccinated should be able to do so before the next wave of H1N1 influenza hits.
Beginning next week, H1N1 vaccine will be available at the following Clallam County pharmacies:
Forks: Chinook Pharmacy
Port Angeles: Jim’s Pharmacy, Safeway (Lincoln St. and Hwy 101), Rite Aid on Lincoln St., Save-On Pharmacy (Albertson’s), and Walgreen’s
Sequim: Safeway, Walgreen’s and QFC pharmacies
Most local health care providers have supplies of H1N1 vaccine they have been using for their patients at high risk for influenza complications. Effective next week, all patients may receive H1N1 vaccine from their regular health care provider without eligibility restrictions.
Clallam County Health and Human Services is conducting school-based clinics from December 8 to December 18 throughout the county to target school aged children, unvaccinated siblings, and school personnel. In addition the Health Department will continue to provide H1N1 vaccinations at its Port Angeles offices on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9 AM to 3 PM and at the Forks office on most Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
All Clallam County residents are encouraged to take advantage of the increased availability of H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) vaccine. Unlike common cold viruses, influenza can turn deadly in unpredictable ways. To date there have been over 100,000 hospitalizations and over 4,000 deaths (including over 250 deaths of children) attributed to the H1N1 virus in the U.S. Only about half of these individuals had a known risk factor for influenza complications.
Reasons to get vaccinated are not confined to reducing your personal risk of catching this potentially deadly infection. Vaccination also prevents secondary spread of the infection to vulnerable family members, friends and coworkers and helps stop community wide spread of this epidemic disease. The only good reason not to be immunized is if you have had laboratory confirmed H1N1 infection in the past 6 months. It is safe for people who think they may have already had a flu infection (but did not have a confirmatory blood test) to receive the H1N1 vaccine. In that case the vaccine boosts your immunity to the virus.
Additional information can be obtained at the Clallam County Health and Human Services Website (http://www.clallam.net/HHS/PublicHealth/flu.html) or by calling the Health Department in Port Angeles at (360) 417-2274 or in Forks at (360) 374-3121.