The state Department of Health has ordered its first batch of the new H1N1 vaccine and expects to receive the initial shipment the week of October 4. A state health official says only a small number of doses, about 5,000, will be in that first shipment but more doses will be ordered and shipped each week after that.
When the department receives that first shipment, it will turn around and distribute it to hospitals so they can begin vaccinating health care workers in their areas as a first line of defense against H1N1. As more doses come in each succeeding week, they will be targeted to other priority groups for vaccination – pregnant women, young children, parents and caregivers for infants younger than 6 months, and children with chronic health conditions. Vaccine will be offered to these target groups through department community health offices, private clinics, and community clinics.
"Health care workers are at high risk for the flu because of their close contact with infected people," said Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth. "It's essential that they are among the first vaccinated so we can assure a healthy workforce that's able to take care of the ill."
Hollingsworth said the vaccine will be targeted at those workers who have direct patient care contact. The initial shipment will be the nasal spray vaccine, which can only be given to healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49. It is not recommended for pregnant women.
Federal health officials expect 186 million doses of H1N1 vaccine in the United States by January 2010, a total well above the number of doses ever given during any normal flu season.
"There should be more than enough vaccine for everyone who wants it – we need to take care of the high risk groups first and the rest of us just need to be patient and wait until a little later in the season," said the Secretary. "Every flu season we're still promoting flu shots in December and even January because as long as the virus is circulating, it's never too late to get the shot and be protected. The situation is the same with the H1N1 virus."
Flu clinics will be listed on the department's Web site, http://h1n1.sd.gov.