Alabama to begin H1N1 vaccines in mid–October

State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson expects Alabama to receive almost 2 million doses of H1N1 vaccines by December.

Thousands of patients presented flu–like symptoms in doctors’ offices and hospitals across the state over the past six weeks.

Williamson said of those cases all but four tested positive as the H1N1 virus. In the meantime, Williamson encourages those who are sick to stay home.

“We’re confident if we can keep people who are ill from presenting either at school or at college or at their work site, we can minimize the number of people who become ill, we can minimize spread, we can buy ourselves time, so that our next intervention, which is large scale vaccination, can go forward beginning in mid–October,” Williamson said.

Williamson said the effort to combat H1N1 in coming weeks would be intense.

The vaccine is currently undergoing clinical trials, but the state expects to receive 600,000 vaccinations by mid–October.

An additional 300,000 vaccinations will become available every two weeks through December, Williamson said.

He said the department plans to iron out who receives the first round of inoculations in the near future.

Williamson said most individuals who become infected by the virus would not experience severe symptoms. The population groups the department appears most concerned with are children six months to 4 years of age, pregnant women and individuals 25-64 years old who have at–risk health conditions.

The state health department is currently working with the public school system to schedule voluntary vaccination clinics for K-12 students at schools. Williamson said the vaccines would also be made available through primary care physicians, pediatricians and Ob/Gyns.

“We really see this as multi–layer engagement,” Williamson said. “We think this is likely to be the most intensive and comprehensive vaccination effort that certainly the state of Alabama has undertaken.”

The plan also includes vaccinating healthcare and childcare workers. Williamson said the inoculation would likely take two doses.

Williamson encourages individuals to continue to get regular flu vaccinations. Clinics for those will occur in Shelby County beginning mid–September at the health department. Dates for those clinics are Sept. 14, 21, 28 and Oct. 5. Regular flu shots cost $5.