HERE COMES THE FLU

September 07, 2001 12:00 am

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Union Countys public health officer is preparing for another delay this year in the distribution of flu vaccines.

Although manufacturers have not announced a vaccine shortage or delay, Dr. James Winde has his doubts about early availability. He said the system for creating vaccines has not changed since last year.

Theyre saying the vaccine will be available the first week in October, but Ill believe it when I see it, he said.

Winde said vaccine cultures that prevent certain strains of flu grow very slowly.

Union County Public Health nurse Trisha Blackman is working with Winde to organize and coordinate the immunization effort.

Weve ordered 1,500 doses, about the same amount as last year, she said.

Blackman said that she will not schedule any immunization clinics until the vaccine arrives. The first clinics will target the elderly and others at highest risk.

Winde said he is concerned about the number and type of flu viruses that may reach Eastern Oregon this year.

I think we may see a worse type of flu, he said. Some researchers are saying that in Australia and Micronesia, theyre seeing pretty severe cases. Immunization will be even more important than last year.

Windes way of facing the possibility of delays or shortages in vaccines has been to contact public and private health care providers to pass on information about state regulations and work to coordinate efforts.

The state Health Divisions Center for Disease Prevention and Epidemiology has prioritized those at greatest risk. If there is a vaccine shortage and companies ignore the priority list, the state may levy civil penalties.

The thing is: We need to get the people who are high risk, Winde said. We go exactly by the CD Summary (from the Health Division). Thats the Bible to us. Well go by that, but it has to be a coordinated effort.

People who arent sure of their risk factor may pick up a questionnaire at the Public Health Department of the Center for Human Development, 1100 K Ave. The questionnaire will help people learn if they are at high risk for flu.

Blackman said most people should receive the vaccine, if its available.

Children in day care should get a vaccine, (as well as) people in their 20s, especially if theyre college students and living in a dorm, she said.

Although the earliest public health clinics will target high-risk people, later clinics at CHD will be for anybody who wants the vaccine, Blackman said.

Private clinics and some employers also administer flu immunization shots.

RISK FACTORS

People at the highest risk for flu the elderly and those with serious medical problems should be immunized ahead of others, according to state health officials.

The states Center for Disease Prevention and Epidemiology has developed three categories of risk factors. If there is a vaccine delay or shortage, the state Health Division may declare a vaccine shortage emergency and levy civil penalties on any providers who do not follow the guidelines.

The states list of those at highest risk:

People 65 and older;

Nursing and other care home residents who have chronic medical conditions;

Adults and children with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disorders, including children with asthma;

Adults and children who receive medical treatment or have been hospitalized because of chronic diseases, including diabetes;

Children and teen-agers who receive long-term aspirin therapy;

Women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during flu season.

Those who fall in the second risk category include nurses, doctors, hospital care givers, nursing home and care home employees, and household members of people at highest risk.