H1N1 vaccine arrives in Pitkin County for high-risk patients | AspenTimes.com

H1N1 vaccine arrives in Pitkin County for high-risk patients

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County received its biggest single shipment of H1N1 flu vaccine to date on Friday and will distribute it to health-care providers from Aspen to Basalt this week, according to Liz Stark, director of Community Health Services.

The 400 to 500 doses will go to Aspen Valley Hospital and other physicians and clinics, including Community Health, to be administered to patients in the high-priority tiers for the vaccine, Stark said.

Those high-priority patients include: pregnant women; caregivers of children who are less than 6 months of age; children of 6 months to 4 years in age; and those who are ages 5 to 18 with an underlying medical condition.

Before Friday, small quantities of H1N1 vaccine had been arriving weekly for five weeks – some 800 doses in all that went first to health-care providers. Priority patients only recently began receiving the vaccine, Stark said.

It will probably be another couple of weeks before the vaccine is offered to patients in the broader, second-tier target groups – anyone up to age 24 and those up to age 64 who have an underlying medical condition, she said.

The first H1N1 outbreak swept through the Roaring Fork Valley in late September and early October, though most who contracted the flu suffered mild symptoms, according to health-care providers. It’s not too late to be vaccinated for H1N1, though, Stark said.

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“Typically these things come in waves,” she said. “You still have some people you can protect. Not everybody’s had it.”

Meanwhile, the county is still waiting for additional doses of the seasonal flu vaccine after running out early. The first flu shot clinic Community Health conducted, in October, drew more than 800 people and the agency was forced to cancel subsequent clinics as a result. About 200 doses were set aside for the Nov. 6 Senior Health Fair at Aspen Valley Hospital, when a variety of lab tests and screenings will be offered to seniors, along with seasonal flu vaccines.

There will not be a bouncer at the door, said hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche, but the shots are intended for those 60 and older, she said.

“We trust that people will do the right thing,” Dyche said. “If we see someone who’s obviously less than 60, we’re going to call them on it.”

Stark said she’s been told to expect additional seasonal flu vaccines by the end of November. In a typical year, it would be November before they were administered anyway, she said.

“It’s not really seasonal flu season yet,” she said.

Early on, health officials were advising the public to get their seasonal flu shot early and then get the H1N1 vaccine when it became available. The early rush for seasonal flu shots meant communities around the state ran out quickly.

Though the state distributes flu vaccines by county, based on population, residents of the Roaring Fork Valley needn’t worry about county lines when they’re getting a vaccine, according to Stark. She advised patients to call their personal physician first, if they have one, to see if they can get a flu shot.

janet@aspentimes.com