State and local officials are waiting for supplies of swine flu shots to arrive, and when they do get here, designated priority groups will be first in line.
“We’re working with pediatricians, OB-GYNs and family doctors to help them get it out to their patients when it arrives,” said Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The shots will be available free to the priority groups through county health departments when it arrives. Those groups are pregnant women, children, young adults, health care workers and caregivers for infants.
“We’re going to start as soon as we can,” said Dr. Walker Byers, an epidemiologist with the Mississippi State Department of Health and the interim health officer for the Northeast Mississippi health district.
However, to supply flu shots, the health department is dependent on shipments through the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC has shipped out some nasal vaccine. That vaccine, which has age and health restrictions on who can receive it, is largely being distributed to health care organizations.
But some health care organizations are waiting on the shot form of the swine flu vaccine. University Medical Center decided to wait for the injection form, citing restrictions on who can receive the nasal version.
Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services – which has five hospitals in Mississippi – plans to offer novel H1N1 flu vaccine by injection, not nasal spray.
Likewise Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Healthcare – which has five North Mississippi hospitals – is waiting for the shots to vaccinate its employees.
“We plan to offer the swine flu vaccine to health care workers at NMMC, starting with those who provide direct patient care,” said Elaine Gillespie, NMMC-Tupelo director of Employee Health. “We have not received any of the vaccine as of yet, but plan to begin immunizing as soon as we receive it.”
While everyone is waiting, health officials are urging people to get seasonal flu shots and practice good hygiene.
“Eventually we should be able to offer (novel H1N1) vaccine to everyone who wants one,” Byers said.
Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal