Flu vaccine available for high-risk population

Up to 480 Polk County residents at high risk of getting the flu can get their flu shots at two clinics announced Nov. 28.

POLK COUNTY — Up to 480 Polk County residents at high risk of getting the flu can get their flu shots at two clinics announced Nov. 28. Oregon’s first confirmed influenza case of the 2000-2001 season was recently found in Eugene, and announcement of the vaccine clinics comes none too soon. Shots will be given from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Dallas Senior Center behind the Dallas Public Library. They will be administered from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Monmouth Senior Center, 180 S. Warren St. in Monmouth. The cost is $10 or, if you bring in a MediCare card, there is no cost. Because there are only 240 shots per clinic, only high risk residents will be able to get the vaccine at these times. A nurse will determine whether the person seeking the vaccine falls into the high risk category. People from the general population must be at least 65. Other risk factors, such as working with high-risk people, will be assessed at the site. Hospital and doctor’s office workers are in the state health department’s second priority group, since they provide care to people at risk of complications from influenza. Also in the second priority group are those who live or work with high risk people. Employees at Valley Community Hospital are getting shots but the hospital does not have enough vaccine to offer it to the public. Polk County Public Health has tentatively been told to expect additional shipments of the vaccine, but they were given no guarantees. “The appearance of the influenza virus is early this year, and we have a vaccine shortage,” said Martin Wasserman, administrator at the Oregon Health Division. “We strongly urge businesses that are distributing influenza vaccine to use it in the right way by protecting vulnerable populations, those people who fall in our first priority group. That means only vaccinating the elderly, those who are in nursing homes and persons with chronic illnesses.” Availability today often depends on who the distributor is that orders were placed with six months ago. Many distributors have been unable to fulfill their customary orders. “This first case may or may not signal the beginning of flu season in Oregon, depending on whether the health division finds additional cases in the coming days,” Wasserman said Nov. 21. “Once we establish that influenza is being actively transmitted, there is a lag time of four to six weeks before illnesses reach a peak. That usually happens in December or January, so people may still have time to get their vaccine.” Those who are eligible for pneumococcal vaccine — people over 65 and those with a chronic medical disease — should also get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, which is a common complication of influenza, Wasserman said. The pneumococcal bacterium causes not only pneumonia, but ear infections, meningitis and infection of the bloodstream. Pneumococcal pneumonia accounts for 25 to 35 percent of all pneumonias leading to hospitalization; resulting in 7,000 to 13,000 deaths per year in the United States, according to the National Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Unlike the flu vaccine, which must be taken annually, the pneumococcal vaccine is given one time. Influenza has similar symptoms to the common cold; sore throat, fever, muscle aches, headache and cough. “Unlike other common respiratory illnesses, influenza is associated with a striking sense of unwellness accompanied with a loss of appetite and weakness lasting several days, according to the health division. For those in the third priority group who may be last to get the vaccine, Wasserman has some advice, “Avoid crowds. Wash your hands often. Use your handkerchief.” More information about influenza and flu vaccine can be found on the Health Division’s web site at

and from the Centers for Disease Control at

For information on flu clinics offered across the state you can call Safeness, a toll-free health information service, at 1-800-SafeNet. Starting in December, another resource will be an on-line, a searchable database of Oregon flu shot clinics. The database is sponsored by Oregon Live, an electronic newspaper, and can be found at

. Also, check the Itemizer Observer’s web site at www.itemizerobserver.com for an update. The latest information on the flu vaccine will be posted as it becomes available.


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