The past few months have been a wild ride for public health and the medical community as we’ve responded to the Pandemic H1N1 flu outbreak. As if the threat of a flu pandemic wasn’t enough, vaccine shortages caused even more confusion.
With vaccine coming in so sporadically at first, it was a huge challenge to figure out how to quickly get it to the people who would get the sickest the quickest, while also protecting the rest of the population until enough vaccine was available to give it to everyone who wanted it. Keep reading to learn when the vaccine will be available to everyone.
Thanks to our partnership with local health care providers, tens of thousands of people in Shasta County have been vaccinated through school-based clinics, mass vaccination clinics and thousands of private appointments. As of December 10, Public Health has vaccinated more than 5,400 people, and approximately 22,000 doses have been distributed to other local health care providers to give to their providers and staff. And the effort is far from over.
By now, we hope everyone knows these messages by heart: “wash your hands frequently,” “stay home when you’re sick”, “get vaccinated” and “know what to do if you or someone you care for gets sick.”
Thanks to additional support from local hospitals, billboards, radio advertisements, website announcements and messages coming home with schoolchildren are among the dozens of ways we’ve shared this advice far and wide.
Of course, flu season is far from over, and seasonal flu just got started. I encourage you to get vaccinated for both seasonal flu and Pandemic H1N1 as soon as possible. If you qualify for a pneumonia vaccine, please get that, too. Flu weakens your defenses and increases the chances that you’ll get pneumonia, which can be very dangerous.
New vaccine is arriving all the time. For more information, contact your health care provider, call Public Health (225-5591) to schedule an appointment, or come to one of our clinics. H1N1 is now available to:
- Children from 6 months through 18 years of age
- Caregivers of those under 6 months
- Pregnant women
- Healthcare workers with direct patient care
- Adults age 19-64 with chronic health conditions
It will be available to everyone else starting Dec. 17.
For more information about flu vaccine and for tips on staying healthy, visit www.shastaflushots.com and www.shastapublichealth.net. You can find places that are giving H1N1 and seasonal flu shots by visiting www.google.com/flushot and entering your city or ZIP code.
To our health!
Donnell Ewert, MPH, is director of Shasta County Public Health. While at Wheaton College, he participated in the Human Needs and Global Resources program, which included a seven-month internship in Honduras – an experience that sparked his interest in public health. He earned his master’s degree from UCLA. He worked briefly as a health educator with migrant farm workers in Virginia before becoming an epidemiologist for the health departments in Los Angeles and the state of Indiana. Donnell came to Shasta County Public Health as an epidemiologist in 1999, after doing humanitarian health work in Kazakhstan. He has been the department director since 2007. He and his wife, Mary, have two teenage daughters.