Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties' health departments have removed all eligibility restrictions for the H1N1 influenza vaccine in the three-county area.
This means all persons who have been waiting to receive the H1N1 vaccine but did not fall into a federally designated priority group can be immunized against H1N1 influenza (also known as swine flu).
Because of early shortages of the federally supplied vaccine, it 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. Now supplies appear sufficient for everyone - including all adults - regardless of age or health.
3rd wave expected
The H1N1 pandemic has caused two distinct outbreak "waves" in the United States, the first beginning in late April and cresting in May, 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, according to Dr. Tom Locke, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
He said health officials expect to see four distinct types of influenza this winter - the third wave of the H1N1 pandemic along with the three types of the influenza virus that typically circulate each year.
Full protection against influenza this year requires two separate vaccines: one for H1N1 and the other for seasonal flu.
Studies: Shots safe
Studies of the tens of millions of people who have received the H1N1 vaccine show it to be very safe. All who wish to be vaccinated should be able to do so before the next wave of H1N1 influenza hits.
Most local health care providers have supplies of H1N1 vaccine they have been using for their patients at high risk for influenza complications. Now all patients may receive H1N1 vaccine from their regular health care providers.
Clallam County Health and Human Services Department is conducting school-based clinics through Friday, Dec. 18, throughout the county to target school-age children, unvaccinated siblings and school personnel. The health department also will provide H1N1 vaccinations at its Port Angeles offices from 9 a.m.-
3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
4K H1N1 deaths
All Clallam County residents are encouraged to be vaccinated. Unlike common cold viruses, influenza can turn deadly in unpredictable ways. To date there have been more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths (including more than 250 children) attributed to the H1N1 virus in the U.S.
Only about half of these individuals had a known risk factor for influenza complications.
Vaccination also prevents secondary spread of the infection to vulnerable family members, friends and co-workers, and helps stop community-wide spread of the epidemic disease.
The only good reason not to be immunized is if you have had laboratory-confirmed H1N1 infection in the past six months.
Where to get shots
Sequim: Safeway, Walgreens and QFC pharmacies
Port Angeles: Jim's Pharmacy, Safeway (Lincoln Street and U.S. Highway 101), Rite Aid on Lincoln Street, Save-On Pharmacy (Albertsons) and Walgreens
Forks: Chinook Pharmacy
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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