Swine flu shots opened for all

State health officials have lifted restrictions on who can get swine flu shots at county health departments.
After weeks of asking the public to give priority to pregnant women, children, infant caregivers and health care workers, the Mississippi State Department of Health on Thursday said the vaccines are now available to the general public.
The health department is offering both the injectable and nasal mist forms of the vaccine free of charge at county health departments.
Some private providers and pharmacies also have the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine, which was provided through the health department. Those providers are allowed to charge an administration fee.
It’s not too late to get protection from the flu, public health advocates say.
“It’s the perfect time to get vaccinated for both types of influenza before everyone gets together for the holidays,” said Dr. Mary Currier, interim state health officer. “We don’t know which type of flu we will see during regular flu season and we need to be prepared for both seasonal and swine flu.”
Right now, there seems to be a relative lull in flu activity. The Centers for Disease Control lists Mississippi’s influenza activity as regional, but current rates of influenza-like illness, reported through the state’s sentinel physician network, are below three-year averages for this time of year.
The swine flu outbreak in Mississippi peaked in August and September. In Mississippi, the flu season typically starts in December and January and peaks in January and February.
So far, the state health department has distributed more than 800,000 doses of swine flu vaccine through private providers, county health departments and school vaccine program.
The state lab has confirmed more than 1,200 swine flu cases, representing a fraction of the Mississippians who have gotten sick with the new flu bug.
Statewide, 13 deaths deaths have been attributed to confirmed cases of swine flu, and another eight flu-related deaths have been reported since August.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Quick facts
– Separate vaccines are required for protection against swine and season flus. Both are recommended and can be given at the same time.
– Nasal mist vaccine is available to people between the ages of 2 and 49 who are in good health.
– Children under 10 will need two doses of swine flu vaccine.
– Swine flu vaccine is being distributed around the state based on county populations. Call ahead to your local county health department or private provider to check availability.
– More info: (877) 222-9358 or www.healthyms.com

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

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