Flu vaccine stockpile is released | AspenTimes.com

Flu vaccine stockpile is released

Eben Harrell

Around 500 doses of flu vaccine in Pitkin County will now be made available to people age 50 and older, despite a nationwide vaccine shortage.The announcement was made yesterday by the Pitkin County Community Health Services and coincided with a directive from federal and state health agencies to loosen restrictions on people eligible to receive vaccines.The restrictions, in place since October, stated that only patients age 64 or older, or other “at-risk” patients, were eligible for vaccination.Pitkin County Community Health Services will now distribute its stockpiled vaccines to people age 50 and older. Eagle County, too, will administer stockpiled vaccines at its El Jebel office.”This is something we’ve been lobbying for,” Pitkin County public health director Yvonne Hernandez said. “I hope people in the over-50 age group will take advantage and come in for a vaccination.””This is a very timely decision,” Eagle County public health manager Jill Hunsaker said. “We are expecting a peak in flu season in the coming weeks. Patients need this vaccine as soon as possible, because it takes a few weeks for full immunity to build up.”According to a press release from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tight restrictions on vaccines this fall led to unused supplies. The CDC said the stockpiles, spread among private sector providers, were difficult to distribute to at-need communities. “To ensure that no vaccine is lost or wasted … [healthcare providers] may choose to recommend a limited expansion of eligibility for immunization,” the press release read in part.Aspen resident Bruce Kallenberg said he will be first in the door to receive a vaccine. Kallenberg, who turns 64 this year, said he’s been crossing his fingers for health services to loosen restrictions since October.”This is great news,” he said. “I’m very social. I’m out a lot. So I’m worried about stuff like influenza. In this town it is important. And besides, what’s the difference if you’re 65 or 64?”Pitkin County Community Health Services, located opposite Aspen Valley Hospital on Castle Creek Road, will be administering vaccines for walk-in appointments on Mondays from 9-10 a.m. and Thursdays from 3-4 p.m. For midvalley patients, Eagle County health services will administer vaccines on Mondays from 1-4 p.m. at the Eagle County building on Eagle County Drive in El Jebel. There are no residency restrictions for vaccination at either site. Vaccines cost $15.Hernandez said patients should also check with their physicians, as private practices may also be administering unused vaccines to over-50 patients. For healthy adults age 18-49, a nasal spray vaccine is available in limited supply, although not through Pitkin County Community Health. Contact your local physician to determine availability.For more information on walk-in appointments, contact Pitkin County Community Health Services at 920-5420 or Eagle County Health Services at 704-2760.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com