Health departments getting flu vaccines

Friday, November 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Sixty-nine county health departments and some satellite centers have received the majority of this year's supply of influenza vaccine, state Health Department officials say.

Priority for shots is being given to high-risk individuals, including those with chronic diseases like diabetes; nursing home residents and people age 65 and older; individuals with lung disorders or immune deficiencies and women in the mid- to late stages of pregnancy.

Medical workers, doctors and nurses who care for these high-risk individuals also are being encouraged to get flu shots.

``With this most recent shipment to date, we have received slightly more than 115,000 doses of the total 210,000 doses of flu vaccine ordered,'' said state Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

Nursing homes received 40,000 flu doses last week, and county health departments soon will have nearly two-thirds of their order, Beitsch said. The rest of the vaccine is expected to arrive later this month and in December.

The commissioner said the inoculations will not have an effect on the flu-like symptoms associated with anthrax, which has not been seen in Oklahoma.

``Oklahomans should get the flu shot to prevent the flu, not to relieve anxieties about getting anthrax,'' Beitsch said.

Beitsch added that the influenza vaccine doesn't offer 100 percent protection, and that some people who get the shot will develop influenza.

``Every year, 20,000 people in the United States die from influenza complications, and another 100,000 are hospitalized. Although the four reported deaths from anthrax were tragic, clearly Oklahomans should be more concerned about protecting themselves from influenza,'' Beitsch said.

The flu season in Oklahoma does not usually occur until late December or January, and flu activity usually does not peak until January or February.

Beitsch said it takes about two weeks after the flu shot for a person to gain full immunity.

In recent weeks, visiting nurses associations have been distributing flu vaccines and shots have been made available to the Indian Health Service.

Health officials also recommend that Oklahomans be vaccinated against pneumonia, which is available at physicians' offices and county health departments.