SEATTLE - You can't get it yet, but the Swine Flu or H1N1 Vaccine is available for local health departments to order.
Federal health officials say the first batch of H1N1 swine flu vaccine includes about 71,000 doses for Washington. This initial vaccine is a nasal spray; flu shots are expected in a couple of weeks.
On Thursday morning, the Seattle King County health Department briefed reporters on the subject, and director Dr. David Fleming said the county has put in its order for the first 20,000 doses, which should arrive next week.
Health care workers are at the top of the list, as they're the ones who will need to be on the job, as others get sick.
The 20,000 should cover all the health care workers in the county who want it, and they're being encouraged to get it.
By mid-October, a much larger batch will come in, 200,000 to 250,000 doses which will be prioritized for the following groups:
- The young, ages six months to 24 years old
- 24- to 64-year-olds with underlying chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women, and people who live with infants under than six months old.
- Infants under six months are not supposed to get the vaccine.
"When that larger amount of vaccine become available, that's when people who fall into these groups for whom we're recommending vaccine should be thinking about 'So how am I going to get my shot?" said Fleming.
Almost all new reported cases of flu are H1N1 swine flu, but the numbers aren't large - yet.
"We've been seeing increasing numbers for weeks of younger people presenting to emergency rooms, people 5 to 49," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, King Co. Chief of Communicable Disease Control.
So how can you get vaccinated? First, you need to be part of one of those vulnerable groups, at least initially. The vaccine will be distributed to medical providers such as doctor's offices, health department clinics, pharmacies and other venues yet to be established.
As tax dollars are paying for the vaccine, a doctor's office is only supposed to charge for the administrative costs of giving you the vaccine, not the vaccine itself. Health Department clinics and public venues are likely to distribute for free, depending on the ability of the patient to pay.
So when can the rest of the population get the H1N1 vaccine? King County Public Health estimates a million people may fall into the vulnerable category just in King County, but not all are expected to show up for their shots, as the numbers of vulnerable people start to fall off then medical providers will begin inoculating others.
In Snohomish County, health officials expect an initial, small supply of H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine to arrive in within three weeks. The first shipment of up to 6,000 doses is designated to immunize health care workers and frontline emergency workers. Vaccine in subsequent shipments will be offered to people who are most at risk of complications from H1N1 illness.
Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the Snohomish Health District, said the county expects to receive up to 130,000 additional doses of H1N1 vaccine before the end of November.
Whatcom County will receive its first shipment of H1N1 vaccine during the week of October 6. It will likely arrive mid-week (10/7 or 10/8).
The shipment will include 2,000 doses of H1N1 nasal spray vaccine. Injectable vaccine (H1N1 flu shot) is not expected until later in October.
States order vaccine
More than 60 states, large cities and territories will be placing swine flu vaccine orders, so nearly half have their orders in and more are placing them this week, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The states that have placed orders include Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are also on the list.
At a press conference Thursday, Schuchat also said about 300,000 pediatric, liquid doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu have been released from a national medicine stockpile to address a shortage. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius approved the release Wednesday.
The CDC doesn't have an exact count of swine flu deaths and hospitalizations, but existing reports suggest the infection has caused more than 600 deaths and more than 9,000 hospitalizations since the virus was first identified in April.
The government keeps more careful count of deaths of pregnant women and children attributed to swine flu. The CDC is aware of 28 deaths of pregnant women and about 50 of children.