Health officials target high risk groups for H1N1 vaccine

Published 7:07 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More of the H1N1 vaccine is available in Mower County, and health officials are targeting high risk groups like pregnant women and young children until more vaccine is available.

Margene Gunderson, director of Mower County Community Health Services, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending how to disperse the vaccine.

“The CDC is putting out who the high risk groups are, and — relative to the amount of vaccine that’s getting out to communities — they are determining then who are the highest of highest priority groups. Pregnant women fall into that category and also kids ages 6 months to 4 years,” Gunderson said.

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The top priority groups to receive the vaccine are pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 4 years, especially children with chronic health conditions.

Mower County Community Health Services is hosting a vaccination clinic for pregnant women on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Mower County Public Health Nursing Office. The office is located at on the south side of Oak Park Mall, 1301 18th Ave. N.W. Suite A.

Pregnant women can also receive the injectable flu vaccination from their medical provider or at Austin Medical Center.

Parents of children with chronic health conditions can contact their medical provider about the availability of the injectable vaccine.

Pregnant women and children with health conditions like heart trouble and asthma can only receive the vaccination through an injection.

FluMist, a nasal flu vaccine, is available for children ages 2 to 4 years, and it can’t be given to children younger than 2 years old, Gunderson said. FluMist has been given to some health care workers younger than age 50.

Children ages 2 to 4 years old who don’t have chronic health conditions can get FluMist vaccinations at AMC or at the Smart Clinic in Sterling Main Street. Currently, there’s not enough injectable vaccine for healthy children ages 6 months to 2 years.

Health officials are recommending the nasal vaccine not be given to children with chronic health conditions.

“It’s a weakened virus so for kids who have chronic health conditions, they would rather use the injectable vaccine, instead of using one that has a weakened virus in it,” Gunderson said.

Despite the limited quantity of the vaccine, Gunderson said more shipments of the vaccine are expected, and health officials will continue to vaccinate those with the highest risk.

“We anticipate that we’re going to be getting additional vaccine into our community, and as that vaccine volume increases, so too does the number of people we can serve,” she said. “The door swings open a little wider.”

Until the vaccine is more readily available, Gunderson said people should still promote good health practices like staying home when sick, covering coughs, was hands and limit contact with potentially sick people.

To prevent the spread of H1N1 and flu like illnesses, AMC is restricting visitors in hospital inpatient units. Visitors to patients will be limited to immediate family members age 16 or older.

“By restricting visitors we can help protect our patients who are more susceptible to contracting the flu,” said Cynthia Dube, medical director of AMC. “In addition, we strongly urge those who are sick or have flu like symptoms to avoid visiting patients in the hospital. We realize this may cause inconvenience for some people, but we are making this request in the best interest of the health of our patients.”

People can call the medical center’s H1N1 information line — (507) 434-1188 — for more information.

Dr. Richard Schindler, infection control medical director at AMC, said sick people should stay home and avoid going to the medical center.

However, people should contact the medical center for severe symptoms like trouble breathing, fevers of 104 degrees or more that don’t go down within a few hours and seizures.