Health officials target new groups for H1N1 vaccine

Friday, November 20, 2009

With the county's school population taken care of, the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department will now focus on other priority groups to administer the H1N1 vaccine.

Bourbon County Public Health Nurse Alice Maffett said the department is now planning to focus on individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 with medical conditions.

"We really have not yet been able to address that group of people because we didn't have the vaccine," Maffett said. "Now we are going to be trying real hard to now start reaching for that population here in our county."

The SEK Multi-County Health Department will now be accepting walk-ins on Mondays to receive the vaccines and will also accept appointments Tuesday through Thursday. The office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Maffett wants to encourage pregnant women to get the vaccine. She said pregnant women stand a four-times greater chance of dying from H1N1 than other individuals considered healthy.

"We're really not reaching that group," Maffett said.

Throughout the last couple of weeks Maffett had been visiting local schools to administer the vaccine and found that only one-fourth of the students have been choosing to receive the vaccine.

Maffett said the reason for a small number of participants could be because of the public's perception that the vaccine is new.

"It is not a new vaccine ... this is manufactured the same way as the seasonal flu," Maffett said.

Although the department receives a shipment of the vaccine every week, the supply is still limited, according to Maffett. She said the vaccine cannot be administered to the general public until they get the okay from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

"We look forward to when we can open it up to all the population," Maffett said. "It is strictly due to the lack of the vaccine."