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H1N1 shots roll in to Lincoln County

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| November 4, 2009 11:00 PM

The most recent batch of H1N1 flu vaccinations – 400 injectable doses – are now available from providers in Libby, Troy and Eureka.

Limited supplies of the vaccine first became available last month, quickly vanishing as eager locals lined up to get themselves and their children immunized. To take advantage of the most recent batch, residents must make an appointment with their provider.

Amy Smart, Lincoln County public health emergency preparedness coordinator, stresses that though the vaccine is expected to run out quickly, more doses will continue to arrive. Particulars, such as how many and when, are unclear.

“We keep getting shipments in each week,” Smart said. “We don’t know amounts, though, until they get here. It’s all very speculative.”

The phone in the Lincoln County Nurse’s Office in Libby has been ringing off the hook with anxious inquiries as to the availability of the vaccine, according to county nurse Karol Spas-Otte.

“Everyone (in the office) is grabbing the phone as much as they can and we’re all as busy as can be,” Spas-Otte said. “We’re using it (the vaccine) up as fast as we can get it, or giving it out to other providers. We’re not sitting on it here.”

As of last week, 25 people in the county tested positive for Influenza A. Four were confirmed cases of the H1N1 strain, and the rest were assumed to be, according to Smart.

The county held clinics in Libby and Troy for the nasal spray H1N1 flu vaccine a few weeks ago, with the Libby clinic lasting only an hour before the 100 doses ran out.

Children under age 10 must receive two doses spaced three to four weeks apart, so later this month clinics will be held again at the Kootenai Senior Center in Troy and the Libby Senior Citizens Center to administer the second nasal spray dose. The follow-up clinics will be held Nov. 18 from 1-4 p.m. in Troy and Nov. 19 from 3-6 p.m. in Libby.

Nasal spray doses have not been approved for pregnant women or those 50 and older. However, the injectable doses that are now available are approved for everyone.

Smart recommends that everyone also get vaccinated for seasonal flu at the upcoming clinic Nov. 11 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Libby Senior Citizens Center.

Priority Group

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends those considered vulnerable to the H1N1 strain of influenza A to have priority to the vaccine until enough doses are available for everyone.

• Pregnant women

• Household members or caregivers of infants under 6 months old

• Health care and emergency services personnel

• Everyone ages 6 months old to 24 years old

• People age 25-64 who have health conditions that make them more at risk for complications from the flu.