Those at less risk to get H1N1 vaccine 1st - East Valley Tribune: News

Those at less risk to get H1N1 vaccine 1st

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Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 5:55 pm | Updated: 1:14 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The first shipment of H1N1 flu vaccine Arizona is getting won't be going to those most at risk.

Acting state Health Director Will Humble said Wednesday those first 70,700 doses are the nasal spray. That contains a weakened form of the virus designed to build up an individual's immunity.

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But because it is a live virus, it is not recommended for those with certain health conditions. That includes those who are most at risk, as well as pregnant women, who are at the top of the state's priority list for getting vaccinated.

Humble said it will be up to each county to decide how to allocate its share. At this point, though, the emphasis is on inoculating health care workers, especially hospital employees who have direct patient contact.

He stressed that the state has no plans to mandate the vaccine for health workers as has been done in New York. Some nurses and others question both the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

Bob England, Maricopa County's health chief, brushed aside those concerns, making a public plea to health workers to get the vaccine when it's offered.

"No one is going to be more likely in the face of the most vulnerable patients we have than health care workers," he said. "The last thing in the world you want to do is accidentally infect somebody who you've worked so desperately hard to try and help."

As for everyone else, Humble said Arizona is expecting another 800,000 to 1 million doses of the flu shots by the end of the month. These are made with a killed virus.

Health officials also said Wednesday they are learning more about the novel H1N1 virus - and that some of the things they suggested earlier might not really make sense. One of those is the use of antiviral medications for children early on in the disease process.

"We're finding out that the illness isn't as severe as originally had been thought," said Dr. Laura Yoblanski, representing the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Kids are able to fight it off on their own if they're otherwise healthy," she explained. Yoblanski said the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is not to use these medications unless there are other factors that put the patient at particular risk, like an underlying illness or other problems with family members.

Humble said all the publicity about the H1N1 virus has resulted in more people than usual lining up early for the regular seasonal flu shots that already are available. But the flip side, he said, is that some places are reporting they're running out.

Yoblanski said the situation is being complicated by the fact that manufacturers have devoted their resources to producing more of that H1N1 vaccine.

Humble said Arizonans should not be worried.

"The information that I have seen from the CDC and from the federal government suggests that, over time, there'll be plenty of seasonal flu vaccine for everybody," he said. "The question is, will you be able to get it exactly when you show up? Maybe not."

He said, though, that should not be a worry, as the regular flu season for Arizona doesn't really start until December.

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