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Flu shot shortage continues for Bear River Health Department

October 27th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Kara Kawakami

LOGAN–The flu season is raging onward and Bear River Health Department still is experiencing vaccination shortages.

This flu season has been “one of the most intense experiences” in his health care career said Keith Larsen, director of emergency services for BRHD. Larsen and Lloyd Berentzen, director of the health department, spoke to the Cache County Council Tuesday and gave updates on the current situation with the seasonal flu as well as the H1N1 strain.

Every year the Bear River Health Department expects to give about 8,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine. This year is the same. However at the end of the season, “We’re expecting to have given 80,000 doses of H1N1,” Larsen said. The health department is ready for the additional vaccinations, having hired more employees and extra nurses, Larsen said.

While the system is up, the health department does not have the vaccines yet. While they hope to have 30,000 doses, they have only received 1,700. If an individual is in one of the target categories, they are encouraged to get vaccinated, he said.

“Currently Cache County is at an epidemic level,” Larsen said. Up to 40 percent of Cache County residents could be affected by H1N1 and should be vaccinated, he said.

“What we’re after here is population medicine, community immunity,” Berentzen said.

“We had the wave in the spring, why didn’t we have the vaccine [H1N1] that much sooner?” County Executive M. Lynn Lemon asked.

Lloyd explained that to make the vaccine is a 6-month process. It is made the exact same way the seasonal flu vaccine is made, and it could not have been made sooner.

There are five categories of people who should be vaccinated for H1N1: pregnant women, children aged 6-months to 24-years, adults over the age 49 with chronic diseases, healthcare workers, and caretakers of children under 6-months old, Berentzen said.

The accessibility of vaccinations for people not in these groups will be “softened as availability of vaccines comes along,” Berentzen said.

The vaccinations of anyone 9 years old and younger will need a booster shot, but children 10-years and up only need one shot, Berentzen said.

“I have read that there’s no cost,” Councilman Brian Chambers said.

Larsen confirmed this saying, “The feds have sent everything but the Band-Aids.”

“If you’ve had the regular flu shot does that give any assistance on H1N1?” Chambers asked.

The H1N1 strain is different than the seasonal flu, therefore does not help, Larsen said.

“I’ve heard that H1N1 is similar to a strain that came around 45 years ago,” Councilman Craig W. Buttars said.

Larsen confirmed this, saying that people 65 and older may have been exposed to a similar strain, and may have immunity to H1N1.

The simplest ways to prevent the flu are still to stay home when sick, wash your hands frequently, and cover your cough, Larsen said. Hand sanitizers also work, but washing with water is still good, he said.

For more information on H1N1 and the seasonal flu check www.brhd.org.

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