First Oregon swine flu vaccines expected soon

PORTLAND — Swine flu vaccinations are expected to begin shortly in Oregon.

The first shipments of a nasal spray are expected by Monday, with injectable vaccines to follow soon.

Vaccine should be widespread by mid- to late October, and supplies should satisfy the demand, said Dr. Mel Kohn, state public health director.

“We do expect that we will have enough vaccine for everyone who wants to to get vaccinated through the course of the season,” Kohn said at a news conference Wednesday.

Vaccine is being shipped directly to health care providers according to plans laid by local health agencies. Doses are allotted to counties based on population.

“We're moving this out as quickly as we can,” Kohn said. “This doesn't do any good sitting in a warehouse. This needs to be in people's arms and noses.”

The spray comes first because it's faster to manufacture, said Kohn. He said it's suitable for people ages 2 to 49.

The top priorities for vaccination are children 6 months and older, young adults, pregnant women, people caring for or living with infants, people 25 to 64 with chronic conditions putting them at risk for flu complications, and health, law and public safety workers.

But people who are pregnant or have chronic conditions should get injections, rather than getting live vaccine from a squirt in the nose, Kohn said.
State records show a dozen people died of swine flu between April and the end of August.

Since then, two more people have died of the flu. State records no longer distinguish between seasonal flu and the swine flu strain. But health officials say the flu prevalent in Oregon is from the swine strain.

A southern Oregon school closed this week because a third of the students and teachers were sick.

The federal government is paying for the vaccines, but doctors and others can charge administrative fees, which are often around $20.

Kohn said he expects insurance plans that cover vaccines to cover the swine flu vaccine as well.

Vaccinations will eventually be available through retail outlets such as drug and grocery stores, Kohn said, and state and local officials plan to make vaccines available at public clinics to those who couldn't pay for it otherwise.

“Nobody should be turned away,” he said.

On the net:
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