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For Release:  October 2, 2009                                                                 
Contact:         Pamela Williams                        
Office of Communications                        
405/271-5601

H1N1 Vaccine Soon Available in Limited Supply in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today its distribution plan for the first shipment of the novel H1N1 influenza vaccine expected to arrive in the state early next week. The doses will be in the form of a nasal spray vaccine, which is approved for healthy persons 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant and who do not have underlying medical conditions.

 “Given that the first shipment of vaccine is smaller than expected and in the nasal spray formulation, we want to assure that these early doses are targeted to one of the H1N1 priority groups where they can be of the most immediate benefit,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. “Since we have noted that the highest percentage of persons who have been hospitalized with influenza complications are ages 5 to 24, and a number of schools in the state have reported increased absenteeism due to flu, we will target school-age children with the majority of these first doses.”

Bradley said that state health officials believe that by vaccinating healthy school-age children quickly they can increase the level of immunity and “cocoon” other children or siblings who have high risk medical conditions to prevent the continued spread of H1N1 influenza in their communities.

Local county health department administrative directors will determine how best to reach school-age children in their districts including offering school-located clinics as well as off-site clinics.          

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nasal spray vaccine has proven to be an effective mode of delivery for seasonal flu vaccine for children and should continue to be so for the H1N1 vaccine. “It is easy to administer, avoids needles, and immunity begins quickly, within a few days,” said Bradley. “Parental consent will be required, however, parents should be assured that this vaccine is safe. While it does contain live viruses, they are weakened and cannot cause flu illness.”

Some children and young adults have reported experiencing mild reactions after receiving nasal spray flu vaccine, including runny nose, nasal congestion or cough, chills, tiredness/weakness, sore throat and headache. “These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of influenza infection,” Bradley said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is projected to receive H1N1 vaccine in weekly shipments through early January 2010. Initial doses will be provided to those priority groups most at risk from complications of H1N1 influenza, including the following:

  • Pregnant women
  • People caring for infants less than 6 months of age
  • Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years of age
  • Persons aged 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions
  • Health care workers and emergency medical responders

Bradley also reminded Oklahomans that seasonal influenza vaccine is now available through local county health departments as well as health care providers and pharmacies. “This shot is different from the new H1N1 flu vaccine and will protect against this year’s seasonal influenza virus strains for the entire flu season,” Bradley said.

 For more information about H1N1 or seasonal influenza, visit www.health.ok.gov or call your local county health department.

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