County prepares for CDC to greenlight H1N1 vaccine
Wadena County Public Health Director Karen Nelson told commissioners she may need county employees from other departments to help during the mass dispensing of the H1N1 vaccine if the vaccine is given a green light this fall.
If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the go ahead, a first shipment of approximately 1,629 doses of vaccine should arrive around Oct. 15, Nelson said.
"We are expected to start dispensing immunizations because they want to beat the germ," she said.
Approximate follow-up shipments of 2,000 doses would arrive the next week with 6,000 the week after, Nelson said. Public Health and health care providers are planning the distribution of the vaccine.
Public Health will be required to enter all of the immunizations into the state immunization registry on a timely basis, she said. Public Health only has enough staff to be staffed two deep. They need to be staffed three deep by Sept. 30, Nelson said.
She may need to recruit someone from another county department such as the auditor's office, the assessor's office or the recorder's office and train them how to enter those numbers during October through December, she said.
"If we don't have any disease on top of immunizations we might just be able to handle it ourselves," Nelson said. "But they're expecting us to have a plan in place and have it ready."
Right now, drug companies are still doing clinical trials to look at the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as the H1N1 flu strain is mutating, Nelson said.
Areas such as Australia and South America in the Southern Hemisphere are being monitored to see how the flu is acting, she said. Right now, it's still acting like the seasonal flu.
"Although we do know that 39,000 people die every winter from the seasonal flu," Nelson said. "So if we have an additional 39,000 that died from this germ it's its own disaster."
The seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against H1N1, according to the CDC Web site. The H1N1 vaccine is not meant to replace the seasonal flu vaccine, but is intended to be used along with the seasonal flu vaccine.
The people that die from this flu will not be the old people, it will be the young people, Nelson said.
Being born before 1958 may offer some protection against H1N1, Nelson said.
"They think us oldies have run into one of the components of this germ sometime before then and we might get sick, but we won't get as sick," Nelson told commissiners.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice is recommending pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, all people ages 6 months through 24 years, and people ages 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with a higher risk of medical complications from influenza get the vaccine, according to the CDC Web site.
"The people around the world who are dying are mainly pregnant women and people with asthma," Nelson said.
The high-risk groups include people who have suppressed immune systems such as those who have been through cancer treatments, she said.
"So we'll be working together with our medical community to get these target populations and to get them as quickly as we can," Nelson said.
The vaccinations are recommended and encouraged, she said.
Any volunteer health professionals or lay people who would like to help with mass dispensing clinics or any other public health emergencies are welcome to call her or her office manager, Deb Belch, at (218) 631-7629, Nelson said.
Public Health will provide more information to the public about H1N1 as they receive it and as plans are completed, according to Nelson.
For more information visit www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.