Swine flu shots a few weeks away, seasonal flu shot available

Published 4:47 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

State health officials said on Thursday that although a low number of doses of swine flu vaccine are in the state, it will be a few weeks before enough shipments arrive to allow the general public to get them.

Meanwhile, outlets that have been administering the regular, seasonal flu shots said on Thursday that their supplies were getting low. However, the County Health Department has begun administering the regular shots.

Officials urged residents to get the regular flu shot and not wait for the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. H1N1 is popularly called “swine flu.”

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Said Dr. Robert Travnicek, state health department district director for the state’s six southern counties, including Pearl River: “Regular flu shots are available at the local health department, and we encourage everyone to go there and get them.”

Travnicek said it might be several weeks before the swine flu vaccine begins arriving in the state in large enough quantities to administer to the general public.

He said small quantities have arrived but that was generally a nasal spray targeted for health care providers, who could be exposed daily to the swine flu virus.

Katherine Fleming, a pharmacist technician with Walgreens in Picayune, said the two local stores had run out of regular flu shots. “We are trying to get some more, but right now we don’t know if that will be possible,” she said.

Brenda Waggoner, a pharmacist technician for Winn-Dixie in Picayune, said Tim Cuevas, who administers the regular flu shots for the stores, will be on hand at the store in South Picayune at the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Hwy. 11 South from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday.

However, she said the store only has a few regular flu shots left, and whether they would continue to offer the shots on Tuesday would depend on supplies lasting until then.

State health department press releases urged residents to get the regular flu shots at their local state health clinic and other outlets. The county health department is in Carriere about one mile north of the Pearl River Central High School campus on the west side of U.S. Highway 11. The clinic’s telephone number is 601-798-6212.

Officials said regular, seasonal flu shots at the health department cost $25 for adults and $10 for children six months through 18 years old, and pneumonia shots are $48. Officials said residents should bring their Medicare and Medicaid cards because the shots might cost less with the card.

Health officials urged residents to get a pneumonia shot, too, because that illness kills 600 residents each year, and the pneumonia vaccine can reduce the severity of the illness.

Officials said the flu shot is not approved for use in children younger than 6 months old.

Officials said that “in the coming weeks” the health department will receive more shipments of the H1N1 vaccine in the form of nasal spray and in injectable form.

Officials said as supplies increase specific groups, such as school children, will receive vaccinations and then the general public.

Officials said since May 15, 1,066 cases of swine flu have been diagnosed in the state and eight people had died from it, three in Jones County alone.

However, officials said that most cases of flu diagnosed right now is probably swine flu, so the number of cases could be several thousand.

Health officials said the first target groups will be health care workers, pregnant women, students, children six months through age 24, and adults 25 through 64 who have health conditions that place them at greater risk of serious complications from swine flu.

After the swine flu vaccine has been offered to those groups, it will be offered to the general public.

State health officials said they will distribute the vaccine to both public and private providers, including county health departments, hospitals, retail outlets, schools and colleges and doctors and private health care providers.

Officials explained the difference between the nasal and injectable form.

Nasal spray is the easiest to administer but is recommended only for ages two through 49. Only persons who have no chronic underlying health conditions should receive it.

The injectable form is considered safe for everyone six months and older who is able to take a seasonal flu vaccine without side-effects. Most people will receive the vaccine by injection.

Mississippi is expected to get only a small supply of the nasal spray form, most of which will be used for vaccinating health care workers.

The Associated Press reported that by about this time, 40 million doses should have rolled out of manufacturing plants and be on the way to all 50 states.

The AP reported that residents will be able to get the shots when they start arriving at doctors’ offices, clinics, school vaccination programs and drug stores. Each state health department decides who gets the shots and when.

State health officials said they will announce through press releases when and where the shots will be available.

A state health official last week told the AP that because only 10,000 doses of nasal spray vaccine were ordered by Mississippi, it will not go to public schools. State health department spokesperson Liz Sharlot said the spray has not been very popular in the state.

The long screening process for students is another reason schools won’t be getting nasal spray vaccines but will receive the injectable form.

Vaccinations will be voluntary.