UPDATE: Miss. gets swine flu nasal spray this week

JACKSON — The swine flu nasal spray vaccine is arriving in Mississippi this week and will be distributed to about 500 health care providers, clinics, pharmacies and hospitals.

State Epidemiologist Mary Currier said 10,000 doses have been ordered. The spray is expected to arrive Tuesday, and can be used by anyone aged 2 to 49 and in good health. It’s not recommended for some high risk groups, including pregnant women and people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The state Department of Health has been trying to raise awareness about the need to get vaccinations for the H1N1 influenza. But Liz Sharlot, spokeswoman of the state Department of Health, said the spray hasn’t been very popular in the state in the past.

She said because only 10,000 doses were ordered, the nasal spray won’t go to public schools, where officials have estimated hundreds of swine flu cases have occurred. The long screening process to ensure students don’t have any underlying health problems is another reason schools have been left out for the nasal spray.

“With the (injectable) vaccine all you need is a consent form,” Sharlot said.

The injectable vaccine will be available in Mississippi by mid-October, Currier said. That’s when the Department of Health and the state Department of Education will begin work to vaccinate students on campuses. The vaccinations are voluntary.

There have been seven swine flu deaths in Mississippi and more than 900 confirmed cases. Officials believe there have been thousands of suspected cases in the last few months.

Currier said six of the state deaths have been women, but she doesn’t expect that to continue. Nationwide, neither gender has been disproportionately affected by H1N1, Currier said.

Dr. Stephen Coachys, who operates the Byram Family Doctors clinic near Jackson, said he sees four or five patients a day with flu symptoms, but he’s not sure if he’ll provide the spray or vaccine shots.

“It depends on the availability,” Coachys said.

The doctor said he thinks pregnant women should get the vaccinations first.

However, many obstetrician and gynecologists won’t offer the vaccine because that’s a service they don’t usually provide.

“It has to do with the funding. We lose money doing it. What we generally do is recommend all our pregnant patients get a flu shot or swine flu shot,” said Dr. Neil White, an obstetrician/gynecologist on the Gulf Coast.

Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press