Wednesday, December 9, 2009

H1N1 vaccine offered to all under 65

Steady supply finally available in Idaho

Express Staff Writer

Supplies of the H1N1 vaccine have finally caught up to demand, enabling area healthcare providers to now offer it to everyone under age 65.

The South Central Public Health District—which oversees Blaine County and seven other counties to the south—has made the long-awaited change, as have St. Luke's clinics in Hailey and Ketchum. The Ketchum clinic is adjacent to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center in Suite 105.

"We are anxious to provide protection to more people before the holidays," said Rene LeBlanc, health district director. "We've had many calls from people outside the target groups who want the vaccine."

Previously, the vaccine was only offered to high-risk groups like pregnant women, healthcare providers and children up to 18 years old because of a limited vaccine supply. After those groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated adults up to age 64 as the most vulnerable.

"Current studies indicate that the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups," the CDC stated on its Web site recommendation to providers.

Statistics gathered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare support the CDC's findings. Ninety-five percent of lab-confirmed cases in Idaho have been in people younger than 65. The highest number of hospitalizations has been in children younger than 10.

Now that H1N1 vaccination is open to everyone under 65, the health district said it will only be weeks before the last demographic—those 65 and older—will be allowed the vaccine, as long as deliveries hold steady.

"We know that many over age 65 wish to be vaccinated," LeBlanc said.

Providers, including the health district, receive doses on a weekly basis from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which decides how to allocate supplies within the state based on population and need.

As of the end of last week, Idaho had been allocated 359,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine. At that time, public health officials met to discuss the increasing supplies and agreed to make the vaccine immediately available to all Idaho residents under age 65, including healthy adults.

The South Central Public Health District is now offering free clinics by appointment only throughout the month on Tuesdays at its Bellevue office. Call 788-4335, but be aware that vaccinations will be offered based on weekly shipments and will be limited. Also, a consent form must be filled out, which is available at the clinics and on the health district's Web site, Once at the site, click on the "H1N1 Clinic Schedule" box for appointment days and the consent form.

Tonia Bruess, a spokeswoman for St. Luke's, said that to get the vaccine at the Hailey St. Luke's clinic, people don't need to make an appointment but can just walk in. However, she said, it depends on the clinic's having doses available. For that reason, she said, it may be better to call ahead of time. The Ketchum clinic requires appointments.

Trevon Milliard:

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