Archive for Thursday, September 24, 2009

Schools, health agency prepare for H1N1 vaccine

September 24, 2009

Shipments of the H1N1 flu vaccine should be on their way to Johnson County, probably by the middle of next month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which recently approved applications for four manufacturers to make the vaccine, plans to have the vaccine available on a wide-scale basis in mid-October.

Nancy Tausz, director of containment for Johnson County Health Department, said the department expected to receive its supply of H1N1 vaccine in early- to mid-October.

The department already is distributing vaccines and conducting clinics for seasonal flu, as it does annually. But those seasonal flu vaccines are unlikely to provide protection against 2009 H1N1 influenza, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

So, this year, with warnings about a possible global pandemic involving the H1N1 virus, plans are expanding.

“We are continuing to prepare our patients for the H1N1 vaccine,” Tausz said.

Still there are many questions regarding the vaccine that won’t be answered until it has completed trials. For example, there has not been a definite answer on what form the vaccine will come in, whether it be administered as a shot or a nasal spray.

Tausz said once the first shipment of the H1N1 vaccines was received, the department expected to receive a continuous resupply each week.

After the first batch is received and the top priority groups are vaccinated, the county health department will begin to determine how to distribute the vaccines to other at-risk groups and the public at large.

No shortage of 2009 H1N1 vaccine is expected, the CDC estimates, but vaccine availability and demand can be unpredictable and there is some possibility that initially, the vaccine will be available in limited quantities

A Sept. 30 meeting between nursing coordinators for local school districts and the county health department will try to answer questions about vaccines for schoolchildren, who have been identified as one of the priority groups for H1N1 vaccines.

“We’ve been discussing with the districts,” Tausz said of the vaccine preparations. “Each district will work out what works best for them. It really depends on the amounts available.”

While some concern may arise about the safety of the new vaccine, Tausz assures the FDA goes through a strenuous process for approval.

“We try to emphasize this is the same process that the seasonal vaccine has gone through for years,” Tausz said. “It’s the same process and it’s very important to receive it when it’s available.”

At the Sept. 14 De Soto USD 232 Board of Education meeting, district nursing coordinator Shelby Rebeck gave a rough timeline for distribution of the vaccine to students.

In her presentation, Rebeck said the district and county health department would work together to provide the vaccine to students and priority groups in clinics to be implemented in November. However, no final plans have been made for the district to distribute the vaccine.

Rebeck said she would have a better idea of the timeline after the Sept. 30 meeting.

De Soto’s First Community Bank will be giving out seasonal flu shots for $10 from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Branch manager Brent Lathrom said the bank and De Soto Rotary covered a portion of the flu shots, which typically cost $25.

“We’re getting an oversupply of the shots to make sure we have enough,” he said. “We expect between 50 and 75 people to get the shot.”

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