Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TN starts giving swine flu vaccine to health-care workers

The state's first H1N1, or swine flu, vaccines were given Monday to a group of health-care workers in Memphis, but health officials say the vaccine won't be available to the general public until early to mid-November.
While about 40,000 nasal spray vaccines, called FluMist, will be arriving in Tennessee throughout this week, those vaccines are for health-care workers.

"This is not the time for people to start calling and trying to schedule vaccinations," said State Health Department Commissioner Susan Cooper. "Forty thousand doses versus a population of 6 million in Tennessee is a small number. This is just the very beginning of the distribution.

"We'll have more doses and different kinds of vaccines in the following weeks."

Nashville mom Angie Henderson said she was hoping to get herself, her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son vaccinated as soon as possible.

"We were expecting the vaccine to be available in mid-October, so it's a little disappointing," Henderson said. "But I can certainly understand why health-care workers will be vaccinated first."

So far, Henderson said her family has avoided the H1N1 virus.

"I feel fortunate," she said. "But, I think we've just been lucky. I guess we will make do, wait and see and try to stay healthy."

Cooper said state health officials order vaccines each week based on an allotment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC may order as many as 250 million doses of the vaccine, which will be distributed to states based on population size. Tennessee, for example, has about
2 percent of the population, so it would get about 2 percent of the vaccine.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones said the amount of vaccine available was constantly changing, so there was no way to predict how much might be available at any given time.

"Whenever there is an allotment, we hear about it that morning and we put in our order right away," he said.

First in line to receive the vaccinations after health-care workers are high-risk patients such as pregnant women, children and those with chronic illness like diabetes. It will be up to physicians to decide which patients fall into the high-risk groups, Cooper said.

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