State opens H1N1 vaccination to all South Dakotans

All South Dakotans will be eligible for the H1N1 vaccine effective December 14, the state Department of Health announced today. Until now, the vaccine has been targeted for those at highest risk from the H1N1 virus — pregnant women, people who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months, people from 5 to 24 years, adults from 25 to 64 with chronic health conditions, and health care and emergency medical services workers.

"Since we received our first vaccine in early October, supplies have been limited so we've targeted those doses at people for highest risk of H1N1 complications, such as pregnant women and young children," said Doneen Hollingsworth, secretary of health. "We've now distributed more than 227,000 total doses to over 400 locations in South Dakota and the supply is increasing. We know that there are still people in the risk groups who haven't been vaccinated but more public clinics are being scheduled every week and it's time to start reaching out to the general population."

Hollingsworth said that from now on, scheduled public clinics will vaccinate members of the general public as well as continue to offer vaccine to those at high risk. This includes clinics scheduled for the week of Dec. 14 that were previously advertised as for risk groups only. Physician offices and clinics are also still receiving shipments of H1N1 vaccine and will now be able to provide it to any of their patients who want it, as supplies allow.

"While flu reports are decreasing, activity is still higher than normal for this time of year," said Hollingsworth. "At the same time our vaccine supply is increasing, so we have a good window of opportunity to vaccinate people against H1N1. The more people we vaccinate the less disease spread we'll see in the coming months."

H1N1 vaccination is completely voluntary. The vaccine is free but some providers may charge an administration fee.

In addition to H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination, people can help prevent the flu by frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick.

Go to http://h1n1.sd.gov  and click on "Vaccination Dates" for an updated listing of scheduled clinics.

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