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First H1N1 flu vaccine expected this week in Placer County

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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H1N1 help is on the way for Placer County as early as this week. The first 2,500 doses of H1N1 flu vaccine are expected to be delivered to pediatricians and family-practice physicians over the next few days, said Dr. Mark Starr, county community health clinics director. The deliveries by vaccine distributors are going to physicians who have signed on to a state Health Department Web site with an estimate of how many doses they’ll need. Starr said that from there, it will be up to each health-care provider to determine how to get the vaccine in mist form to what are considered the groups most vulnerable to H1N1 – children 8 and under or care-takers of children under 6 months. “It’s just the first snippet of vaccine – we’re not sure why it came available early,” Starr said. “The major first shipment is expected by the middle of the month.” The county still doesn’t know what share Placer will receive in the initial round of distribution but it could be about 30,000 to 40,000 doses, Starr said. The county has a population of about 330,000. U.S. health officials have set an overall goal by end of year of having 200 million doses – about double what would be available during a normal flu season. The bigger push will come mid-month when schools work with the county to hold vaccination clinics for the targeted kindergarten to grade 12 student population. The county has put out a call for volunteers at county-run H1N1 flu vaccine clinics, most of which will be in schools. “We have some volunteers but would like more,” Starr said. Volunteers can contact schools if they’re a parent, watch the county Web site at placer.ca.gov for information or call (530) 889-7141. Both health professionals who can administer vaccine and people with medical training are needed to volunteer. Starr said that the level of concern over H1N1 is higher than in a normal flu season but the vaccine is nothing unusual. “People are naturally concerned when hear the word ‘new’ but in reality it’s like seasonal flu vaccine in how it’s produced,” Starr said. “Except for the strain of influenza in it this is business as usual as far as producing the vaccine.” But not everyone is going to step up for the vaccine. Auburn’s Ryan Hilgris said he doesn’t normally get flu shots and isn’t going to change in the face of H1N1. “Natural immunity is good enough for me,” Hilgris said. “It’s not deadly like malaria or yellow fever, which I have had shots for.” Starr said he’s optimistic that plenty of H1N1 vaccine will be manufactured and distributed. “But there’s always the possibility the virus could change,” he said. “So we keep that level of caution that we’re not out of woods.” School absences have surged up and down during the first two months of the school year at a number of campuses, Starr said. “Some schools have been in the 10- or 15-percent absentee range, which is big. Most have been in the five-percent range or a little more, before going back down.”