The City of Berkeley received its first shipment of intranasal H1N1 vaccine from the state Tuesday, Oct. 6, the same day it administered more than 2,000 seasonal flu vaccines to the public.
Berkeley’s Health Department spokesperson Zandra Lee said the city had received a total of 800 vaccines, of which 100 were allotted to the city and the rest to private health care providers.
The number of vaccines was based on Berkeley’s total population, she said.
Approximately 400,000 doses of H1N1 nasal spray vaccine arrived in California this week. More doses are expected in the coming weeks, including the injectable flu shot.
Lee said the city—under advice from the Centers for Disease Control—was prioritizing the first small shipment for children two to 10 years of age and caregivers of young infants.
She said that CDC had targeted the two groups because the nasal mist could not be used on pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and those over age 59—the other high-priority groups the federal health agency had selected for receiving the swine flu vaccine.
The city’s Health Officer Janet Berreman said in an e-mail message that as more vaccines came in, priority would be given to pregnant women, young people six months through 24 years of age, health care workers and emergency medical responders, caregivers of infants under six months of age and adults 25 to 64 years of age with chronic health conditions.
Berreman said that “when all of those priority groups have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, vaccines would be available for healthy 25- to 64-year-olds and adults 65 and over.”
“We fully anticipate that there will be ample vaccine for all who want it, within the next month or two,” she said. “In the meantime, it will be shipped as it is available, and will be made available to the public as it comes to providers—but it’s difficult to predict dates and quantities. We are working with health care providers in Berkeley who serve priority group patients and to make vaccines available through health care provider offices. People in priority groups should contact their usual source of health care regarding vaccine availability.”
Lee said Berkeley residents could check the city’s Health Department website for updates on the city’s future H1N1 vaccination plan. “We have been told that we should be getting a shipment every two weeks,” she said.
Although the city will not be turning anybody away, the focus right now is on the uninsured and people without private doctors.
“We are recommending that people who have insurance go to Kaiser and Berkeley providers since they have got the lion’s share of the vaccines,” Lee said. “We only have a small amount.”
Swine flu vaccination clinics are expected to go up at each Berkeley public school the week of Nov. 16.
Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said parents would be given the schedule in advance so that they could plan ahead.
“We are making it clear that the H1N1 vaccines are voluntary, but encouraging everyone to get it,” Coplan said. “Parents need to think not just about their child but also the child sitting next to them.”
Rumors about the new swine flu vaccine have been circulating on the TV and Internet, resulting in doubts about its safety.
While most doctors and medical practitioners say it’s safe, some view it as potentially dangerous.
Lee, however said that both the CDC and the California Department of Public Health was strongly advising everyone to get vaccinated against the H1N1.
“The CDC has been very clear that the vaccine is being produced the same way as the regular seasonal flu vaccine,” she said. “We have a long history of providing seasonal flu vaccine and we expect the H1N1 vaccine to be just as safe.”
The H1N1 virus has hospitalized 2,748 people and killed 206 in California so far. Berkeley has had one fatality.
For more information on the swine flu vaccine visit CityofBerkeley.info/publichealth or www.flu.gov or call the City of Berkeley’s nurse of the day at 981-5300.