Friday, October 9, 2009
Nashville health-care workers start to arm against H1N1
By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • October 8, 2009 The H1N1 nasal spray vaccine has arrived at several Nashville-area hospitals and health departments, but at this point the vaccine is only for health-care workers. An infectious disease doctor at Baptist Hospital was among the first health-care workers Wednesday to step up, take a deep breath and offer up his nostrils for the swine flu vaccine. He wanted to get the vaccine to lead by example and to encourage people — health-care workers and eventually the general population — to do the same. The vaccine, which is free, may not be available to the public until November. "Somebody had to be the first," said Dr. Mark Carr, medical director of the infectious disease prevention program at Baptist. "There is an exaggerated concern of the potential risks associated with the vaccine. There seems to be more concern (with the H1N1 vaccine), even though data so far has not borne that out." In Tennessee, the state health department confirmed that 23 people have died from the H1N1 virus — 16 adults and seven children. The state did not have information on exact locations or dates. One was a 5-year-old Nashville boy, Max Gomez, who died in early September. Health-care workers are the first in the country to get vaccinated because they are on the front lines of dealing with the virus daily. Children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions will be next to get the vaccine. "This is so we can be sure we're here," Carr said. "We will make sure the vaccine goes to critical groups who take care of patients." Baptist Hospital received 200 doses of the FluMist this week, along with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which got 1,000 doses, and the Metro Nashville Health Department, which expects to have about 4,900 doses by Friday. They are waiting for the injectable version of the vaccine to arrive, though a specific date is unknown. Carr had to sign his consent and give his age to show he was younger than 50. The FluMist is approved only for healthy people ages 2 to 49. Pregnant women and people with other health conditions cannot take the nasal spray. The common side effect of the mist is having a stuffy nose similar to a cold. That could limit how many employees get the spray vaccine. How much of their stocks of the mist each hospital will use is unknown. Hospitals have been trying to gauge how many of their employees will take the vaccine. Vanderbilt and Baptist will not require employees to get it, but those who opt out must sign a form and state their reason for declining the vaccine. All of that information will be reported to the state. Dr. Philip Fleming, a plastic surgeon at Baptist, asked Carr a bevy of questions Wednesday in the hospital lunchroom. Rumors are circulating in the hospital, just as they are in the public, about the safety of the vaccine. Fleming said he will get the H1N1 vaccine, and he already got his seasonal flu shot. "I am more apprehensive about getting H1N1 than the vaccine," Fleming said. "There are a lot of rumors, and they are just that — rumors." All workers at Vanderbilt and Baptist go through mandatory training about the flu and vaccine. Baptist employees can begin getting the vaccine on Monday. It also will be offered from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. that day for health-care workers at the Metro Health Department's Lentz health building on 23rd Avenue. Vanderbilt will begin vaccinating its employees today, said spokesman John Howser. Brian Todd, of the Metro Health Department, said planning has been difficult, and everyone wants to know when the vaccine will be available to the public. "We'll be giving the FluMist Monday through Friday of next week, and then we'll see how much is left," Todd said. Once the health agency gets enough vaccine, it will go into the schools to give it to students. Consent forms will be sent home with students this week for parents to sign if they want their children to get the vaccine. The department does not know when the next shipments will arrive or how much it will get. "There isn't a notification system," Todd said. "We're glad to get it, but we don't know when it's arriving. We order it, and it just shows up."
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