SEATTLE - This week, the first round of swine flu vaccinations is scheduled to arrive around the nation. So-called "priority groups" will be the first in line for the vaccine, but one group has been left off the list: seniors.
The government is making the vaccine available first to health care workers, people between the ages of 6 months and 24, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions up to the age of 64. Senior citizens are not on the priority list for the vaccine because it appears swine flu is striking younger people more often, perhaps because seniors have built more immunity.
Senior Helpers, a group that provides in-home care for seniors, is trying to educate seniors about prevention. Sue Lucas, the director of Senior Helpers in Bellevue, says her in-home care workers are being trained to spot the symptoms of swine flu in their clients. And when Lucas offered to host a swine flu seminar at the Foundation House at Bothell's senior living facility, she arrived to a packed room.
"I'd hate to see it spread through Foundation House," said resident Betty Munsell.
Lucas reminded seniors to take precautions like frequent hand washing and coughing into your elbow instead of your hands. She also distributed "senior swine flu prevention kits" consisting of things like latex gloves, hand sanitizer and vitamins. Senior Helpers is also encouraging all families to assemble their own swine flu prevention packages to send to their elderly loved ones.
"It's just to let the elder community know that your family cares and they're concerned," said Lucas.
Many of the seniors at Foundation House at Bothell are disappointed they've been left off the priority list for swine flu immunizations.
"I think we need the immunization shots," said Munsell. When asked if she wants to try and get it when she can, "Yes, definitely," she said.
For now, seniors we talked with say the best they can do is lean on the advice of experts.
Resident Bob Haertig says he'll be religiously following one of the golden rules. "Wash your hands more and for a longer period of time," he said.
Health and Human Services says it's working to create enough vaccine for everyone who wants it. Many of the seniors we talked with say they do plan on getting it if and when they can.