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Crowds claim first rounds of flu vaccine

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[OCT. 21, 2004]  On the first two days of this week the Logan County Health Department saw something that it may never have seen before. The parking lot was filled. The building was filled, all with people waiting for treatment. The sheriff's department was called in to help with crowd control and direction of traffic.

As was previously planned, Monday was the opening day of flu vaccine. ["Logan County begins high-risk population flu vaccinations Monday"] However, this year things were different. One of the major manufacturers of vaccine was shut down and the United States will be short on vaccine this year. More vaccine is being produced but is not expected to arrive until the season is half over.

The Logan County Health Department has become the local distribution point for this year's flu vaccine. Administrator Mark Hilliard said, "When we became aware that there was a flu vaccine shortage and we would be getting very little of what we ordered, we combined our effort with the Family Medical Center, the Springfield Clinic here in town and the hospital and pooled our vaccines."

With the cooperation of Logan County physicians and the health department's medical adviser, Dr. Kasa, stricter requirements than the CDC was recommending were imposed. This was done because of the limited number of doses that are available. Those who qualified for the first doses were those who would be most susceptible to complications from getting the flu, such as being over 65 or very young with a chronic health condition.

Four hundred doses of vaccine were given Monday morning. Four hundred fifty doses were given Tuesday. Vaccines were offered again on Wednesday.

On Monday, people were standing at the health department entrance before 6 a.m. waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 a.m. The vaccines were given until they ran out in 1 hours. A couple of handfuls of people had to be told to come back on Tuesday.

Tuesday's vaccinations were set to start at noon. A few people were already standing outside at 7 a.m. Those people were screened for qualification and then given a number and told they could come back after 12.

At 11 a.m. the health department lobby and halls were filled with those preferring to wait. Because so many filled the premises, vaccinations began at 11:30 a.m.

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On Tuesday, there were fewer people than on Monday who had to be told to come back after the vaccine ran out.

If you meet qualifications for the vaccine, Hilliard recommends that you call the health department first, phone 735-2317, to find out the availability and when you might get an inoculation.

More vaccine is expected sometime in the first couple of weeks of December. It is after the flu season has begun and it takes a couple of weeks to build up immunity, Hilliard said.

The local health departments throughout the state and the Illinois Department of Public Health are keeping a heightened surveillance on the flu this year, Hilliard said. One case of flu has been detected in Texas already for this season.

There have been a few complaints from people who want vaccination for an elderly relative who fits the CDC requirement with age but doesn't have a chronic health condition, Hilliard said. There will continue to be monitoring and reassessment of local needs. This includes the nursing homes, which are also getting shorted.

Once the high-risk folks are done, the vaccines will be opened to the next category of need.

Hilliard said that because the flu "will be here, we just don't know how bad it's going to be," the health department is making some added plans.

The health department is promoting the following to reduce the spread of flu:

  • Good personal hygiene.
  • Hand washing.
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Do not drink from the same cup as others.
  • If kids are sick, keep them home.
  • If you are sick, you stay home.

[Jan Youngquist]

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