Flu vaccine on its way to Alaska

Posted: Thursday, October 01, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The first 4,200 doses of swine flu vaccine have been ordered for Alaska. State health officials awaiting their arrival said Wednesday they may not reach state health centers for 10 days.

Al Grillo / The Associated Press
Al Grillo / The Associated Press

The 4,200 doses of flu vaccine nasal spray were the maximum Alaska was allowed, said Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

"This distribution has been compared to being like a faucet, in the sense that what they're doing today is just cracking the faucet open a little and we're getting the first couple of drops."

Swine flu also is called H1N1. Alaska's portion or the vaccine likely will not arrive at a distribution center in Anchorage before the weekend. It could take until the week of Oct. 12 to reach the state's 23 public health centers.

"People really need to give us some time," he said.

The vaccine will be split up based on population.

"We'll divide them up pro rata," Wilkinson said. "That's been our plan the whole time."

The state is recommending the first doses go to children age 2 to 4.

"This type of vaccine, the nasal, live vaccine, is best for healthy people - in fact it's only licensed for use on healthy people - ages 2 to 49," Wilkinson said. The state's medical evidence indicates children age 2 to 4 have an increased risk for hospitalization compared to older children.

"We decided if we're only going to get a little bit of this, what do we want to do with it? We're going to go ahead and make this available to kids ages 2 to 4."

There is no central plan for distributing the vaccines from the health centers. It could be offered at day care centers or clinics.

"It will be a community-by-community decision, on how they want to do it," he said.

Alaska may be able to order more doses soon, possibly even this week, Wilkinson said.

"That's how this is going to be coming," he said. "It's going to be coming in drips and drops."

The "faucet" will be opened up more next week and could be running full blast by the week after that, he said. Eventually, he said there will be enough vaccinations for every man, woman and child who wants one, he said.

The state is not disclosing the location of the distribution facility in Anchorage.

"It's better for security purposes that we keep it's location to ourselves," he said.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, Wilkinson said, as a person builds up antibodies and immunity.

"It you're getting sick today, it's not going to stop it," Wilkinson said.

People who already have had swine flu may not need to get a vaccination. However, he cautioned that people should only be reassured if a laboratory confirmed the illness was H1N1 flu.

"If you had the flu or thought you had the flu, but you don't know, lab certified, that you had H1N1, then we're recommending you go ahead and get vaccinated," he said. "It won't do you any harm and it will cover all the bases to make sure that you're immunized."

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