Flu vaccine now available to those at risk

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Barry County Health Department began offering flu shots to walk-in clients on Monday. The local health unit has replaced its traditional flu clinic schedule with a two-tiered system that will distribute the vaccine first to those who need it most.

"Until we get all the vaccine in that we ordered, we can't do walk-ins and schedule clinics also," said Kathleen King, director of public health programs at the local health unit. "We are following recommen-dations from the Centers for Disease Control and offering the vaccine to the people most at risk for getting the flu."

From Oct. 3 through Oct. 24, the health department will offer flu shots to those at greatest risk. This first tier includes: persons 65 years or older; persons with long-term chronic diseases, age 2 to 64; pregnant women; children, age six to 23 months; residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility; healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care; and household contacts or caregivers of children under 6 months.

After Oct. 24, the health department will offer the vaccine to anyone else who would like protection from the flu virus.

Office hours at the health department headquarters in Cassville are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours at the Monett office are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The cost for a flu shot is $15. Health department personnel will bill Medicare for reimbursement for those who have Medicare Part B insurance coverage.

King said the health department has ordered 3,000 doses of flu vaccine for the 2005-06 flu season. To date, the department has received 1,200 doses.

"We don't expect a shortage this year like we had last year," King said. "This year, there are four companies making the vaccine, which should reduce the chances of another shortage."

Last year, the flu vaccine supply in the United States was reduced by half when the Chiron Corporation announced it would not release any of its product during the 2004-05 influenza season due to problems at its British plan. At that time, Chiron and Aventis Pasteur were the only two FDA-approved manufacturers of the vaccine for sale in the U.S.

When this shortage was announced last fall, the Barry County Health Department was forced to cancel its schedule of flu clinics. The shortage also resulted in long lines and traffic jams on Main Street during the first walk-in flu shot clinic offered at the health unit last October.

Last year's rush to get immunized is not expected to re-occur, and additional clinics in outlying communities could be scheduled at a later date.

"Once we get all the vaccine in that we ordered, we might set up some clinics," King said. "But that is not likely to occur until November."

For more information on the flu vaccine, call the Cassville office at 847-2114 or the Monett office at 417-354-8686.

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