Tuesday, December 1, 2009

H1N1 vaccine shots open for all

Hundreds of seniors expected at flu clinics By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • December 1, 2009 The H1N1 vaccine will be available to people of all ages at most county health departments starting today. Metro Nashville and Sumner County health departments lifted all restrictions Monday that prevented people who were not high-risk from getting the H1N1 vaccine shot. Only people considered high-risk — mainly pregnant women, children, health-care workers and caregivers of infants — have been allowed to get the shot for the past two months. That has left primarily seniors, ages 65 and older, and healthy adults without the chance to get the vaccine shot until today. State Health Department officials gave local departments the go-ahead about a week ago to start giving the vaccine to any person who wants it as long as vaccine supplies allow it. More than 1 million doses have been ordered for Tennessee since Sept. 30. The vaccine availability also has expanded beyond health departments to retail pharmacies and doctors' offices. Brian Todd, spokesman at the Metro Nashville Health Department, said client traffic in the H1N1 flu shot clinic has slowed, and the agency has been getting a steady supply of H1N1 vaccine doses. About 2,000 doses will be available at a clinic today from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Nashville agency has given out more than 24,000 doses of the H1N1 shot and FluMist. "We've done a good job getting it to at-risk groups, and now, we expect the 60-and-over group will come to get it," Todd said. "We expect it will be a busy day." The Sumner County Health Department also will hold H1N1 vaccine clinics this week at its Gallatin, Hendersonville and Portland locations. Times and days vary by location. People are asked to call before going. People 65 and older weren't considered high-risk because most of the people getting sick and dying from the virus were younger. Health officials believe seniors may have some immunity to H1N1 because of probable exposure to a cousin virus more than 50 years ago. 49 deaths in Tennessee Tennessee has had 49 H1N1-related deaths, including 37 adults and 12 children. Five deaths, or about 10 percent of the total, have been people 65 and older. "We've had a high volume of calls from people 60 and older wanting to know, 'When is it going to be our turn?' " Todd said. "(The shot) is the best protection against flu, so we want to get it into the arms of every person. But when it's in short supply, you want to make sure those who need it most get it first." Nashville's health department also has been going into schools to get children vaccinated. The agency hopes to get enough vaccine to be able to go to five schools a day, but that has not happened yet. Availability of the vaccine could change based on how many doses arrive and how many are needed for schools. The vaccine is free. Doctors' offices and pharmacies may charge a fee to administer the vaccine.

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