March 3, 2010

Healthcare providers still encouraging residents to get H1N1 shot

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Flu season typically peaks in March, and although the panic surrounding the H1N1 virus has settled due to widespread vaccinations and a slowdown in cases, some medical professionals don’t think we’ve seen the last of the virus.
“Just last week I received an e-mail about a 21-year-old and his girl friend that had been diagnosed with H1N1,” says Marcia Washburn, Upper Missouri District Health Unit (UMDHU). “People are still getting the virus. We just aren’t hearing about it as much.”
The UMDHU has given out 717 H1N1 vaccinations since they first received them in October and the McKenzie County Clinic has given around 200 doses. That leaves a lot of McKenzie County’s over 5,000 residents unvaccinated, but it’s still not too late.
“I feel the whole process was lacking,” says Cheryl Faulkner, McKenzie County Clinic clinic manager. “There was almost a panic to the general public to get the immunization due to the media and portraying the seriousness of needing the vaccine and how many deaths were being attributed to H1N1. I was only getting a few doses weekly at the clinic during this time and was unable to meet the demands of the public. Now that I have doses in stock no one wants the immunization. I am distressed that I have all these doses just sitting there and not being used.”
Like the McKenzie County Clinic, the UMDHU still has doses available.
“March is a big month for the flu and we don’t know if there will be more H1N1 outbreaks, so people should still get vaccinated,” adds Washburn. “We especially hope that people whose children, under the age of nine, that only received one dose of the vaccination will come back in for the booster shot.”
The UMDHU is no longer holding vaccination clinics at the Civic Center. But like the McKenzie County Clinic, they also have doses readily available for anyone interested in receiving the vaccination by appointment.
“Influenza season is definitely not over, and typically in the past, March has been a month where we have had major seasonal influenza outbreaks,” says Nancy Fevold, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Infection Control director. “So much is unknown about how the H1N1 virus behaves, so to predict if it will have a resurgence this spring along with seasonal influenza is anyone’s guess.”
Fevold stresses that anyone who has not been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus or the seasonal influenza virus not wait to be immunized.
“It generally takes a couple of weeks to develop full immunity following a vaccine, so sooner rather than later is better,” adds Fevold. “Maybe we will be lucky and we will not see the typical spring outbreak, but I would rather err on the side of caution.  It is to everyone’s benefit to protect themselves and their family with the vaccine.  Even if you still get influenza after receiving the vaccine, typically the symptoms are much less severe.”
As vaccinations slow, the UMDHU has decided that it’s time to show appreciation towards its volunteers and gather information about their efforts.
“We couldn’t have done over 700 vaccinations without our 18 volunteers and four vaccinators,” says Washburn. “We appreciate their efforts very much and to show them our appreciation, we will be hosting a catered appreciation lunch for them in March. During this time, we will also ask them for feedback on the process so we know where to improve next time.”
For more information about flu vaccines, contact the UMDHU at 444-3449 or the McKenzie County Clinic at 842-3771.