The first, small amounts of H1N1 influenza (swine flu) vaccine have been released by the federal government and will be arriving locally in the week of Oct. 5 in King County for immunization of health care workers. The larger amounts of vaccine needed to begin broader scale vaccination for people who are at higher risk are projected to arrive in mid-October. Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health of Seattle & King County, said, “As soon as supplies are sufficient, everyone will have an opportunity to protect themselves from H1N1 influenza, and we’re working to make the vaccine as easy as possible to get.” People are at higher risk of H1N1 influenza are pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people between 25 through 64 years of age with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems. The vaccines will be available from regular health care providers; pharmacies and other commercial vendors; community vaccination clinics such as community centers, and Public Health Centers and at schools after hours. Flu vaccine will be provided at no cost. Health care providers, pharmacies and commercial vaccinator will charge an administration fee approximately $15, but most insurers will reimburse costs.
There are two types of H1N1 flu vaccine: 1. The injectable “flu shot” is given with a needle, usually in the arm; or 2. Nasal-spray flu vaccine (FluMist®) is a weakened live virus vaccine that can be given to healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. People can help slow the spread of H1N1 influenza until the vaccine is available by taking simple steps, including: staying home from work or school if you’re sick; covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inner elbow; washing hands often with soap and water. For updates and more information on H1N1 influenza visit www.kingcounty.gov/health/H1N1 or call the Flu Hotline, 877-903-5464.