Thursday, October 7, 2004

Only at-risk to get flu shots at first



By Andrea Remke
Enquirer staff writer

Some residents in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area will be out of luck if they'd hoped to prevent sniffles and aches of flu this season by getting a flu shot.

The Northern Kentucky Independent Health District said Wednesday that it has canceled its community flu vaccination clinics scheduled for Oct. 26-29 because of problems with the vaccine supply.

Uncertainty over this year's vaccine supply also forced the Hamilton County Health District to cancel an Oct. 29 flu clinic in Norwood, said Paula Smith, a spokeswoman with the health district, which sponsors public flu clinics outside Cincinnati.

Whether other flu-shot clinics in Hamilton County will be held will be decided by the end of the week, Smith said.

Fearing a possible shortage, the Butler County Health Department Wednesday dropped its policy on providing flu shots to the general public.

The shutdown by British regulators of vaccine maker Chiron Inc. Tuesday abruptly cut almost in half the nation's expected supply of about 100 million doses of flu vaccine. County officials are consulting the Ohio Department of Health, which was expected to supply local health departments in Ohio with 270,000 doses this year.

Emily Gresham, health communications specialist at the Northern Kentucky health district, said health officials were going to offer flu shots on a first-come, first-served basis at clinics until they ran out of doses. However, because the district has received only a quarter of an order of vaccines through distributor Aventis, the decision was made to cancel.

Aventis' Web site says the company has shipped more than 30 million doses of its influenza vaccine, Fluzone, for the upcoming season.

Officials of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, in consultation with local health departments, are developing a plan to distribute available flu shots after receiving guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on who should get them.

Gresham said the health district is working with doctors'offices and other health-care providers to focus on high-risk people: "This would be people with asthma, HIV, those with a health condition."

Patricia Burg, Butler County's health director, said the shots will be given only to the "priority groups" designated by the CDC.

Butler County started its four-week flu shot schedule Wednesday morning at the Fairfield Senior Center without any limitations. A total of 139 people - not just the elderly - received the medication, said Pam Long, marketing specialist for Hamilton Senior Citizens Inc. in Butler County.

Burg said the restrictions will be enforced beginning today during a flu-shot clinic from noon to 7 p.m. at Fairfield VFW Post 1069 and the West Chester Senior Citizens Center in West Chester Township. The department had announced last week that the shots would be available to all county residents.

More information on Butler County's two dozen flu clinics can be found at www.butlercountyohio.org/health.

Gresham said those who can't get flu shots should practice basic hygiene to avoid the flu.

"Wash your hands frequently, if you've got a cold - cough or sneeze into your sleeve ... and if you are sick, don't go to work," she said. "Basically things you can do to prevent illness of any type."

Northern Ky. flu shots

The Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department will provide flu vaccine only to people who are at high risk, based on the following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Children age 6-23 months.

• Adults age 65 years and up

• People age 2-64 with chronic medical conditions.

• Women who will be pregnant during influenza season.

• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

• Children age 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy

• Health-care workers involved in direct patient care.

• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old

---

Matt Leingang and John Kiesewetter contributed to this report. E-mail aremke@enquirer.com




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