Swine flu vaccine due in October

    Priority for the H1N1 vaccine goes to pregnant women, other at-risk groups

    Pennsylvania is expecting a limited supply of swine flu vaccine in mid-October, but doctors can go to the state Health Department Web site in early September to pre-register for a share of the stockpile.

    Listen: [audio:090826teflu.mp3]

    School-age children, pregnant women, and adults under age 65 who have a medical condition, are among the groups that will get first priority for the H1N1 vaccine. Deputy Secretary of Health Michael Huff says obstetricians, pediatricians and others who care for these priority populations can use the Web site to describe their patient needs.

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    Huff: We will drop ship those doses at no cost to the provider, with all the supplies the needles, syringes, that are necessary to do the program.

    The health department will use geographic mapping to determine other areas where the vaccine should be distributed. The next step might be to set up mass immunization clinics, or simply ask doctors in certain regions to step-up their vaccine efforts.

    Pregnant women, healthcare workers and adults younger than 65 with pre-existing medical conditions will get first dibs. In a Harrisburg briefing for state legislators Wednesday Health Department officials said young people — ages 6 months to 24 years — are also a priority population for the preventive flu shot. That’s because, during the H1N1 outbreak this spring, the vast majority of people who caught the new virus were young.

    Pennsylvania’s chief physician Stephen Ostroff says the vaccine is still being tested for safety and effectiveness.

    Ostroff: All of these questions about when the vaccine will be available and whether or not one dose will be need or two doses will be needed, and whether or not two doses will be needed in everybody or just in some people, all of those questions are really yet to be answered.

    Ostroff asked lawmakers to remind their constituents that participation in the vaccine program is encouraged, but voluntary.

    The health department says the Commonwealth will likely receive 2.6 million doses of the federal government’s initial vaccine shipment. The vaccine is expected in Pennsylvania in mid-October, but it could arrive as late as the end of November.

    There have been more than 2,000 probable or confirmed cases of swine flu in Pennsylvania. Ten deaths are linked to the H1N1 virus.

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