City officials detail H1N1 vaccine plans

October 23, 2009 3:55:03 PM PDT
The city is educating the public on how it plans to vaccinate people against the H1N1.While federal health officials predicted that some 40 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be available by the end of this month, so far less than 13 million doses have been dispensed across the nation. Of that, Chicago health officials have doled out over 150,000 doses of the vaccine and this weekend will open six immunization clinics Chicagoans who need the vaccine the most.

Pediatrian Dr. Aleta Clark says her office is administering what vaccine they have on hand and has resorted to a waiting list for patients who want both the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine

"Because I can't order it directly, I can't predict when my next shipment is coming," said Dr. Clark.

That isn't slowing the rush to get the shot.

Sarah Karp is just one parent of a steady stream of people looking to get their kids inoculated with the H1N1 flu vaccine.

"I just figured better safe than sorry. I was going to have all three vaccinated," said Karp.

Eleven-year-old Devonte was the only one to get the dose on Friday as medical experts and Chicago's health officials said they were ready to fight the spread of the virus and the panic about its potential fatal results that have followed.

"While flu is a cause for concern this year and every year it is not cause for alarm," said Dr. Terry Mason, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner.

With widespread production of a vaccine lagging behind demand, Chicago health officials are opening public immunization clinics for Chicago residents who either don't have doctors or whose doctor's don't have the vaccine.

They want those with increased risk like pregnant women, all children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years old, infant caregivers, elderly and the chronically ill along with healthcare workers to get vaccinated sooner than later.

"I think all years with flu should be taken seriously and vaccinations given to everyone who's at high risk," said Dr. Julie Morita, Immunization Program Medical Director.

But because Illinois has had far fewer H1N1 flu related deaths than the nearly 37,000 -- usually over 60 -- who die every year from seasonal flu, some critics question the push for the public to get vaccinated but physician Dr. Aleta Clark says the need for prevention outweighs the minimal side effects only some will encounter with the H1N1 flu vaccine.

"It's standard procedure for new vaccines. its been around for a long time. It's safe for kids and they should receive it," said Dr. Clark.

The Chicago Department of Public Health six immunization clinics will open this weekend at Chicago City Colleges.

It begins Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3pm to 8pm. The inoculations are free and shots are given on a first come, first serve basis.

Chicago's vaccine info:

Chicago Health officials expect to administer 30,000 doses a week at three colleges in the city:

  • Kennedy King
  • Olive Harvey
  • Richard J Daley
  • Truman
  • Arturo Velasquez Institute
  • Wright College
  • Those vaccines will be given out Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on a first come, first serve basis. Locations/Times Free Vaccines offered in Chicago (PDF).

    "In Chicago people are concerned. They're concerned mostly because of how it affects children. And I can understand that. Now, we don't want everybody to show up because we can't give that to everybody in one day. There will be plenty of vaccine. He'll be giving vaccine almost every week," said Dr. Terry Mason, Comm. Chicago Health Dept.

    Because of limited supplies, Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Doctor Terry Mason and all health officials say until more doses come in, vaccines are reserved for:

  • pregnant women children and young adults ages six month to 24 years;
  • people who live with, or care for infants younger than 6 months;
  • people with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes;
  • and health care workers.
  • Officials warn people who are allergic to eggs should not get a vaccine.

    "Is it safe? Well, it's being made the same way we make all the other vaccines. And part of the reason why it's taking a little longer is because the process of production requires some very rigorous testing," said Mason.

    DuPage County vaccine info:

    Beginning today, the DuPage County Health Department is offering free doses of the vaccine at its central office. The clinic will be open from 4-8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekends through November 8. Times will expand next week as more vaccine arrives. In coming days, they will have appointments available at satellite offices. The time slots are already booking up. Schedule of vaccine clinics in DuPage County

    County health staff prepared an elaborate system for greeting, screening and vaccinating residents against the H1N1 virus. There are 10,000 doses of both the nasal and injectable forms of the vaccine on hand. On Thursday, 350 will be used up on those who have been persistent enough to get an appointment.

    "My wife spent about 35 minutes on the phone last night. I think she took 15 minutes to get through and 20 minutes waiting on the line," said Bill Childress, father.

    "We want to have control over crowd control and be able to get the vaccine to the people who need it first," said Maureen McHugh, executive director, DuPage County Health Department.

    McHugh believes as the clinics intensify efforts, people's misgivings about getting the H1N1 vaccine will fade. They'll see their friends and neighbors coming in and experiencing minor if any complications from either the mist or the shot.

    "Whenever something new hits the horizon, people are a little skeptical. As they see people get the vaccine and respond to the vaccine positively and have really no negative outcomes, I think confidence will grow," said McHugh.

    The state's chief of public health, Dr. Damn Arnold, is adamant the vaccine is safe. And those who don't choose to get it are playing a dangerous game with their own health and that of their loved ones.

    "The benefit to me is so far outweighing any potential risk," said Dr. Arnold.

    Lake County, Ind. vaccines

    Health officials in Lake County, Ind., are also offering the H1N1 flu vaccine.

    It is being given out Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the government complex administration building on main street in Crown Point. For details, call (888) 416-1284. Schedule of vaccine clinics in Lake County


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