Health Officials Encourage Early Flu Shots

By: 13 News
By: 13 News

Topeka (WIBW) - The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment is encouraging people to get their flu vaccine early this year.

KDHE officials say there will likely be a rush for the shots with concern over the H1N1 virus. While the annual seasonal flu vaccine will arrive early this year, KDHE says work to develop an H1N1 vaccine continues.

Once a vaccine for the pandemic virus is available, however, KDHE says it is likely to keep local health departments, clinics and retail vaccinators busier than ever.

Health officials expect an H1N1 vaccine to arrive in Kansas by October. The seasonal flu vaccine, usually given in the fall, is already arriving in the state and will soon be available in large quantities.

“The seasonal flu vaccination will not provide protection against H1N1,” Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at KDHE said in a statement. “Separate vaccinations will be needed in order to be fully protected this flu season.”

Vaccination against seasonal flu can begin as soon as vaccine is available later this month or in September. Eberhart-Phillips says the goal is to get the vaccination before influenza activity is taking place in the community.

“The sooner that people receive their seasonal flu vaccination, the better,” he said. “Regardless of how early individuals receive the vaccination, they will have protection from seasonal flu throughout the season.”

If approved, the H1N1 vaccine will initially be made available to individuals in certain groups, as determined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The groups include those at highest risk of developing severe illness, or who would be in contact with those groups, and include:
*Pregnant women.
*Household contacts and caregivers of infants younger than 6 months of age
*All children and young adults ages 6 months through 24 years
*Healthcare personnel
*People aged 25-64 years with high-risk medical conditions

“The amount of H1N1 vaccine that will be available at first is not currently known. Even if you are considered at high risk, it could take some time before you are able to be vaccinated,” Eberhart-Phillips said.

The vaccination to protect against H1N1 flu, if approved, could require two shots to be administered, possibly at least 21 days apart.

Cases of H1N1 flu have now been confirmed in 49 Kansas counties.

KDHE has established a phone number for concerned Kansans to call with questions about the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus. The toll-free number is 1-877-427-7317. Operators will be available to answer questions from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Questions can also be emailed to H1N1fluinfo@kdheks.gov.


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