Holiday helper: Swine flu shots available to all

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Get yourself an early Christmas present that will keep on giving.
Swine flu shots will protect you through the rest of the winter, and they’re free at county health departments.
“Even if you’re not in a priority group to get a shot you can get one now,” said Dr. Mary Currier, interim state health officer.
County health departments – which have free doses of the swine flu vaccine in both injectable and nasal mist forms – will be open today, but will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas. They reopen Monday.
“Now that we have plenty, it’s especially important that the folks who are used to getting flu shots every year, like people 65 and older, should go ahead,” Currier said.
Someone who gets a flu shot today will have some protection against flu germs that get passed around at holiday weekend gatherings. The immune response gradually builds to its maximum level over two weeks.
Right now there’s a lull in the action, but public health officials are anticipating some form of influenza, either the 2009 H1N1 – as swine flu is officially known – or the seasonal flu, will strike back. Mississippi’s traditional flu season usually starts in late December or January and peaks in late January or February.
Private providers and some pharmacies also have the swine flu vaccine. The state health department has released more than 500,000 doses of swine flu to private providers. Those clinics and pharmacies can charge a small administration fee.
“Everybody who ordered vaccine should have it by now,” Currier said. “People can order more as they need it.”
Recall update
Only a fraction of Mississippi’s swine flu shots were affected by the Dec. 15 national recall of a batch of pediatric flu shots that had lost potency after being shipped.
“There’s no safety issue with the vaccine,” Currier said.
Stability testing showed the doses in certain batches of pre-filled pediatric swine flu vaccine had fallen just below the acceptable levels and so manufacturer Santofi-Pasteur recalled them, Currier said.
About 44,000 of the 800,000 pre-filled pediatric H1N1 shots for children 6 to 36 months were distributed in Mississippi. Only a few hundred actually had been used by private providers, Currier said. Those shots were not used in county health departments or the school vaccination programs.
The children who did receive those shots will not have to repeat that shot. Centers for Disease Control guidelines call for all children under 10 to receive two doses of the swine flu vaccine.