County health providers await word on swine flu vaccine

Published 3:50 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pearl River County health care providers say they have their orders in for swine flu vaccines and are awaiting word from the State Health Department about when they will receive doses and how many.

News reports said that swine flu nasal spray vaccine would start arriving in Mississippi this week and be distributed to about 500 clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and health care providers. The injectable version of the vaccine is expected to begin arriving a little later and in larger quantities.

“We have ordered some, but we haven’t received any word from the health department on when it will be delivered,” said Dot Bilbo, administrator of the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home in Poplarville.

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“We talked to them yesterday, and we are on the list,” she said.

A call to Highland Community Hospital to the administrator there was not returned by press time late Wednesday afternoon.

State Epidemiologist Mary Curriere told The Associated Press that 10,000 doses of the spray variety had been ordered, was expected to arrive on Tuesday and could be used on anyone aged 2 to 49 and in good health. The first vaccine doses are expected to be first rushed to inoculate health care providers.

Health officials told the AP that the nasal spray will not go to schools.

In the wake of the startup of swine flu vaccinations, the state this week reported its eighth death from swine flu, another victim in Jones County, bringing to three the number of deaths from swine flu in that South Mississippi County. Laurel and Ellisville are located in Jones County.

The number of swine flu cases in Mississippi has risen to 1,032, but health officials say that is only a fraction of the suspected number of cases, reported the AP.

A spokesperson for Walgreens said the pharmacy is still administering regular, seasonal flu shots at their two locations in Picayune but their supply was running low.

Walgreens has two stores in Picayune, one at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 43 South and Interstate 59 near Walmart in South Picayune and another one in the southwest corner of the Miss. Hwy. 43 and U.S. Highway 11 intersection in North Picayune.

A spokesperson for Winn-Dixie said that store’s pharmacy still has supplies of the regular seasonal flu vaccine, and would be holding a clinic at the store in North Picayune at I-59 and Miss. Hwy. 43 North today.

After today’s clinic, the shots will be offered at the Winn-Dixie in South Picayune at the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and U.S. Hwy. 11 South.

Health care officials have recommended that residents get both the seasonal flu shot and the swine flu shot.

Dr. James M. Riser of Riser Medical Associates in Picayune said that shortage in the production of regular flu vaccines is occurring because vaccine manufacturers had stopped production of regular flu vaccine to begin production on the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

Riser said his clinic has “a few regular shots” available.

Riser said that school children and health care providers will be first to get the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccines.

Riser said that, according to information he has received from the state Health Department the injectable variety of the swine flu vaccine should start arriving by the later half of October.

He said there are an estimated 9,000 school-age children in Pearl River County, and it has not been decided yet how these children will be vaccinated.

“They are still working out the details,” Riser said.

Riser is scheduled to present a talk about the flu situation at the First Baptist Church Life Center on Sunday at 4:45 p.m.

In other developments, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, appearing on CBS’s “Morning Show” said that the President’s advisory committee had identified five target populations: Pregnant women, health care workers, children with underlying health conditions ages 6 months to 24 years old and citizens with underlying health conditions.

Sebelius told the morning TV shows that the new vaccine was “safe and secure”, saying it “has been made exactly the same way seasonal vaccine has been made, year in and year out.”

She added, “The adverse effects are minimal. . .We know it’s safe and secure. . .This is definitely a safe vaccine for people to get.”

About 600 people nationwide have died from the swine flu and the feds have targeted about 90,000 sites to receive the swine flu vaccine by the end of this month, the AP reported.