State

Swine flu vaccine is limited in Modesto area

Stanislaus County health officials still are directing available H1N1 vaccine to local health care providers that serve people in high-risk groups -- passing over members of the general public for another month.

Public health agencies in Northern California, including Tuolumne County, have scheduled public vaccination events this month after making an effort to give the vaccine to vulnerable populations, such as children older than 6 months, pregnant women, young adults and adults with chronic health conditions.

In Stanislaus County, officials still are trying to get the vaccine to people in high-risk categories. The county doesn't have enough vaccine to hold public vaccination clinics, said Nancy Fisher, county public health nursing director.

"I don't believe our risk groups have been addressed yet," she said, noting that public clinics may not be held here until January. "I don't want to hold a community event and not have enough vaccine to serve the people in line."

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in swine flu activity nationwide, federal officials are worried about renewed outbreaks with increased holiday travel and social gatherings.

Stanislaus County has not seen a let-up in fatalities.

Six of the 13 deaths in the county have occurred since Oct. 21. The most recent victims were a 44-year-old man who died Nov. 5, a 65-year-old woman Nov. 21 and a 27-year-old man Nov. 26. There often are delays in confirming H1N1 fatalities through lab tests.

A sense of frustration

Frustration continues to mount for people in high-risk groups who have been unable to protect themselves or their children.

Jean Riley of Modesto tried to get her children vaccinated soon after the H1N1 nasal mist arrived in October and kept trying after the first injectable doses were delivered five weeks ago. She said she spent weeks talking to receptionists, nurses and administrators at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation before her two daughters were vaccinated, including a 16-year-old with asthma who was given a shot Monday.

Her uninsured 27-year-old son, who uses an inhaler, can't get a shot from the county's immunization clinic.

"They are not getting it to the groups that the government designated," Riley said. "They are picking and choosing who they give it to."

Modesto resident Season Henkins said a pediatrician recommended the shots for her three children, all of whom have blood disorders making them susceptible to infection.

She said the shots weren't available for a Nov. 20 appointment at Sutter Gould, a week after the group said it received 4,000 doses, and she was told Tuesday she is now on a waiting list for pediatric vaccine.

"My children are being exposed all the time, and they don't have the immune support to help them fight it," she said.

Sutter Gould Spokesman Craig Baize said the group is administering the vaccine in accordance with the CDC guidelines. It was holding H1N1 flu shot clinics this week for its patients 18 and older who meet the criteria.

"I believe we are trying to get more supply for our pediatricians in Modesto," Baize said.

Stanislaus County, with a population of 528,000, has received more than 70,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine and the state has approved orders for 20,000 more. It could take several days or more for the new doses to be delivered.

Taking direction from counties

The state relies on direction from the counties in filling the vaccine orders. Stanislaus County has not approved orders for private pharmacies to sell flu shots and, except for a few clinics for pregnant women several weeks ago, is not offering the vaccine through its immunization center on Scenic Drive in Modesto.

The vaccine is more available in nearby counties.

In Tuolumne County, officials have held H1N1 flu shot clinics at schools and expect 1,000 county residents at a free vaccination clinic at the county fairgrounds Dec. 15. Dr. Todd Stolp, the county's public health director, said about 80 percent of the county's supply of vaccine has been given to targeted populations.

Officials in Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties have permitted private pharmacies to sell the H1N1 flu shots. The Safeway pharmacy on South Main Street in Manteca went through 200 doses in the past week before running out Tuesday, a representative said. Safeway stores in Stockton and Tracy also have the vaccine, according to the American Lung Association's online flu shot finder.

Asking your physician is the best way to arrange for an H1N1 flu shot. Private pharmacies with vaccine (outside of Stanislaus County) are listed at the American Lung Association's flu shot locator, www.flucliniclocator.org. Supply is limited. Call first to make sure it's available.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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