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Yuma County Health Dept. short on flu vaccines
Even though there is a very limited amount of H1N1 vaccine available and a complete shortage of seasonal flu vaccine, the Yuma County Health Department asks the public to remain calm.
"The health district didn't just start working on this. It has been in preparation for this since the spring ...to put together action plans," said Kevin Tunnel, county director of public and legislative affairs.
Yuma County has already received a shipment of 1,900 doses of H1N1 nasal spray vaccine, and has distributed it to health care providers. The first on the list to get vaccinated will be first responders such as EMTs and paramedics.
"The H1N1 vaccine is being distributed appropriately so health care workers are getting it first so they don't get sick and can do their job for people who do get sick," Tunnel said.
Leigh Ann Howell, Yuma County Public Health Services District nursing supervisor of immunizations, said even though the health department is out of seasonal flu vaccines, there are still many companies in the private sector who can vaccinate people.
"The County Health Department is currently out of seasonal flu vaccines and we are awaiting a shipment (which will arrive) some time in November. We are expecting at least one more shipment, maybe two. When we get a shipment we will let the public know. There are plenty of places in Yuma to still get vaccinated, and I know larger clinics will take AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) insurance. Pretty much every pharmacy in town does have flu shots available."
Howell said to be protected from both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus, people need to get two separate vaccinations.
"The seasonal influenza vaccine will not protect against the current novel form of H1N1. The only reason there is a monovalent (vaccine) available this year is because (virologists) did not know about the 2009 H1N1 early enough to get into the trivalent influenza vaccine."
Howell said people can get the two vaccinations at the same time, as long as they get the injectable versions.
"If you get the live nasal spray you have to wait 28 days, but if you get the live seasonal vaccine you can get the injectable H1N1 vaccine."
Maria Nunez, Yuma County Public Health Services District Director of Nursing, said the county will receive the injectable form of the H1N1 vaccine in the near future.
"Right now (the nasal spray vaccine) is a Live Attenuated Vaccine (LAV), which is a weakened live virus, and is only recommended for healthy people from 2 to 29 years of age. We cannot give this vaccine to anybody that has any prior health conditions."
Nunez said when the county receives the injectable H1N1 vaccine they will immediately host public clinics.
"The injectable vaccine will become available shortly, and when that happens we will let the public know, and try to vaccinate those with the highest risk priority, which are children, people with chronic conditions and pregnant women."
Nunez said it is very important to get vaccinated.
"Right now we are seeing a very high rate of infection and flu-like symptoms. If it is available to you and you meet the criteria for being at high risk, you should get the vaccine."
Nunez said H1N1 has the same symptoms as the regular flu.
"Coughing, fever and sore throat. The only difference is it targets a different population than the seasonal flu. Unless people get tested they will not know which type they have, and the only people who are tested are actually hospitalized."
Howell said the public needs to stay vigilant.
"People should stay informed about what is going on by watching the news and seeing when their risk group can be vaccinated."
In an effort to keep the public informed, the Yuma County Public Health Services District will be launching a new H1N1 phone hotline on Oct. 13 at 8 a.m. The public will be able to ask questions specifically related to the 2009 H1N1 season currently underway. The hotline will be operational from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and can be reached at 373-1025.
For the very latest about H1N1, log onto www.yumacountyaz.gov and click on the H1N1 link found on the homepage.
What you can do to stay healthy:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
• Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
• Follow public health advice regarding avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
• Find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
• Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.
• Visit www.cdc.gov for additional information and resources.