The beginning of the school year in Sanders County has anxious parents speculating what to expect in light of the H1NI Influenza virus. The novel H1N1 influenza virus is persisting and continues to cause outbreaks and sporadic cases in numerous communities this summer. Evidence suggests that population immunity to this virus is low, particularly among the young.
Therefore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices developed recommendations on who should receive the novel 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it is distributed and to determine which groups of the population should be prioritized if the vaccine is available in the limited quantities. The committee recommended that vaccination efforts initially focus on 5 target groups: pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 months years and people who are 25 through 64 who are at higher risk for novel HlNl because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. However Cindy Morgan, RN health officer for Sanders County noted there will be some flexibility at the local level on the recommendations depending on local vaccine supply.
“We do not expect a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine; however we recognize that influenza vaccine supply and demand is always unpredictable and initially vaccine may be available in limited amounts.” Once the demand for vaccine for the prioritized groups has been met at the local level, the Sanders County Health Department will begin offering vaccine to people from the ages of 25 – 64 years.
Current studies indicate the risk for illness among persons age 65 and older is less than the risk for younger age groups. Therefore once vaccine demand among younger age groups has been met, Sanders County Health Department will offer vaccination to people 65 and older.
Morgan confirms health department and hospital personnel have been preparing, for an event such as this for the past 3 years. According to Morgan, all the HlNl vaccine for Sanders County will come to the local health department; the amount will be based on the population, and may arrive as early as the middle of September. There is still not a consensus if the H1N1 vaccine will require 2 doses or 1 dose according to Morgan. Morgan reminded residents there will again be a Hotline established at the health department with current information for the public on scheduled clinics, vaccine availability and recommendations to lessen your chance of getting influenza.
Morgan noted the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available in September and the recommendations for who should receive that vaccine have not changed. The Health Department will again be offering large community influenza clinics in every community in the county for seasonal influenza vaccines.
Morgan reminded parents the school immunization law has not changed. The Health Department will offer HlNl vaccines at the school clinics to effectively reach that target group, but it will not be mandatory for the students to receive the vaccine.