Swine flu vaccine expected in county by mid-October | AspenTimes.com

Swine flu vaccine expected in county by mid-October

ASPEN – The vaccine for the H1N1 influenza, better known as swine flu, is expected to be available in Pitkin County by mid-October, health officials told the county commissioners Tuesday.

Members of the Pitkin County Board of Public Health stressed that all people older than six months of age should get vaccinated for both H1N1 and seasonal varieties of flu. It’s important for people to take personal responsibility to minimize the spread of viruses, said Dr. Morris Cohen, a member of the county health board.

“They all need to be immunized. That’s the first thing,” he said.

There was a surge last week in the number of students reporting illnesses with flu-like symptoms, according to Public Health Director Liz Stark. One case was confirmed to be H1N1. “So we’ve got it in our community,” she said.

Overall, 96 students were ill with flu-like symptoms, Cohen said. More than 99 percent of the flu in circulation at this time is H1N1, he said. So chances are there is a greater presence in Pitkin County than the one confirmed case.

H1N1 isn’t behaving like seasonal flu. This is supposed to be the “offseason” for flu viruses, but swine flu isn’t waiting for winter, Cohen said.

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“It’s way ahead of where it should be,” he said. “It’s a little scary, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The availability of the H1N1 vaccine will be limited at first, so there will be a priority system that targets those most susceptible, Stark said. Pregnant women, families and caregivers of newborns under six months of age, and health care and emergency medical personnel are the highest priorities, according to national health guidelines.

Next are all children and young adults between six months and 24 years of age as well as anyone between 25 and 64 with health conditions that put them at greater risk of medical complications from the flu.

People ages 65 and older are considered at greater risk from seasonal flu rather than swine flu. “The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is asking that people 65 and older wait to receive the H1N1 vaccine until those people who are at highest risk of infection have had the opportunity to get vaccinated,” said a memo to the commissioners from the health board. “When more vaccine becomes available, more groups of people will be able to get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, the health board is encouraging everyone older than six months of age to get vaccinated for seasonal flu. Shots will be available from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Health and Human Services Building. Vaccinations are also available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies in places like City Market and Safeway.

All you ever wanted to know about influenza and more is available at http://www.flu.gov.

scondon@aspentimes.com