Boone County receives first shipment of H1N1 vaccines

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:34 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — Children, pregnant women and health care workers will be among the first to receive Boone County's first H1N1 vaccines, which arrived Tuesday. The shipment contains 900 doses of the nasal spray vaccine FluMist.

This batch of vaccines will go to family medicine and pediatric professionals, so they can vaccinate healthy children ages 2 to 4 and their parents, and to some health care workers.

Overall, first priority for the vaccine goes to women who are pregnant, children 6 months to 4 years old, people who work with children and emergency medical professionals, according to the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The nasal spray is approved for people aged 2 through 49. According to the health department, parents should call their doctor to find out when their child can get the vaccine, and health care professionals can contact their employers for more information.

Missouri is no longer testing for H1N1 — in part because it was the only flu strain circulating — but health professionals are diagnosing the disease based on symptoms.

Pamela Roe, a spokeswoman at MU's Student Health Center, said the health center is not having people come to the office because that could increase the spread of disease. Instead, diagnoses are given over the phone based on a series of questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Student Health Center has seasonal flu vaccines available from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Student Recreation Complex. MU students must have their student ID, and the cost is $25. When the H1N1 vaccine becomes available to students, it will be offered at no charge, according to the health center.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said he could not confirm an accurate number of H1N1 cases because the Student Health Center cannot account for those who are staying home, who are calling a family doctor, or faculty and staff who might have the virus.

Boone County could be receiving more vaccines as often as every week. Some counties in Missouri are having all their allotment sent to the health department and then they are distributing it to the providers, while many of the larger counties have made arrangements for the vaccines to go straight to the providers, said Kit Wagar, spokesman for Missouri’s Department of Health andSenior Services. Most counties are mixing the two strategies.

Geni Alexander, the public information specialist for the health department, said that the county will be ordering the maximum allotment.

"However much we can get, we will order," Alexander said.

The vaccines will be distributed through the health department or sent straight to the provider, depending on the week.

The shipments began last week, with some counties receiving a small initial amount. Others, like Boone County, decided to wait a week until the shipment was larger. This week’s shipments are about twice as large as last week’s, and the amount will continue to increase over the next couple of weeks, Wagar said.

Vaccine production and shipment will continue at least through flu season, which peaks in January and February.

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