Production of the vaccine that protects against the H1N1 influenza virus is taking longer than expected at the federal level, which has led to smaller than expected amounts of vaccine in northern Idaho.
“We know people are anxious about when the vaccine will be available, and their concern is understandable as we hear about more people getting sick,” said Jeanne Bock, Panhandle Health District (PHD) director. “We’re putting the limited amounts of vaccine we receive into the people who need the protection most as soon as we get it, and we’ll continue doing that because so many people fit into the vaccine target groups identified by the Centers for Disease Control.”
Delayed vaccine shipments forced PHD to postpone school vaccinations scheduled for this week. Vaccinations in 15 schools with elementary-age students in the five northern counties will resume Nov. 9 and 10. Vaccinations of middle school and high school students were postponed until early December.
Nearly 1,500 people who fit into the CDC’s vaccination target groups were vaccinated in the five northern counties on Saturday, Oct. 24. More than 6,000 calls were made to a toll-free appointment line at PHD on Thursday for the 1,500 appointments available at the Saturday clinics.
Saturday’s vaccinations went to pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months old, everyone from age 6 month through 24 years, people age 25 through 64 with chronic health conditions and healthcare and emergency response workers.
About 200 people with appointments failed to show on Saturday. The vaccine reserved for them will go to private medical providers for patients and /or health care personnel.
With the limited vaccine supply and the H1N1 virus in our communities, it is particularly important for people to slow the spread by staying home when they are sick. Coughing and sneezing into a sleeve or tissue help prevent contagious germs from becoming airborne an infecting others.
Most people recover from the flu without medical attention. They stay home and rest, drink plenty of fluids, take over-the-counter flu medicine and reduce their fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. People with symptoms who believe they need medical attention should call the doctor’s office before walking into a waiting room with a contagious illness.
To help protect themselves while waiting for the vaccine, people should wash their hands often, stay six feet away from anyone with respiratory symptoms, cover their coughs and sneezes and sanitize living and work areas regularly.
PHD will post vaccination clinics on its website—www.phd1.idaho.gov--as they’re scheduled and publicize them through the media. For information on the H1N1 influenza virus, visit www.phd1.idaho.gov or www.flu.gov or call the PHD H1N1 toll-free hotline at 1-866-528-3501.
This article has been posted in cooperation with the Pandhandle Health District and the North Idaho Public Information Network.