State

H1N1 vaccine clinics coming to Stanislaus County

Stanislaus County residents can roll up their sleeves for an H1N1 flu shot at either of two mass vaccination clinics planned in the next two weeks.

The county Health Services Agency will hold the clinics for the general public. It expects that thousands of county residents will take advantage of the free vaccinations to protect themselves against the flu pandemic.

The shots are for anyone ages 6 months and older.

The first clinic will be in Modesto on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Centenary United Methodist Church at McHenry and Tokay avenues, just north of Briggsmore Avenue.

Another mass vaccination will be Jan. 14 in Turlock from noon to 6 p.m. at the Assyrian American Civic Center, 2618 N. Golden State Blvd.

The county plans additional clinics in other communities in January, but has not announced the dates, times or locations.

The clinics are the county's first major effort to administer the vaccine to the general public since the flu outbreaks began here six months ago. Starting with the first shipments in early October, health care providers followed federal and state guidelines in giving the vaccine to children, pregnant women and people in other vulnerable groups.

County officials said they had planned to hold mass vaccinations in November and December but postponed the clinics because of manufacturing delays that stunted the flow of vaccine to health agencies across the country.

Supply has increased in recent weeks

The supply of vaccine since has improved, prompting local medical groups such as Sutter Gould Medical Foundation and Kaiser Permanente to offer the shots to any patients within the past two weeks. Private pharmacies were expected to start selling the vaccinations.

"With increased shipments, all community members can now receive vaccine from their health care providers, at our mass vaccination clinics and from other vaccine providers," said Nancy Fisher, public health nursing director for the county.

County public health has received 17,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine and ordered 5,000 additional doses for the clinics in January. That should enable nurses to give up to 10,000 shots at the Modesto event next week, said Phoebe Leung, assistant director of health services.

People who go to the clinic can expect long lines leading into the multipurpose building at Centenary United Methodist. The waiting lines may stretch outdoors, so people are advised to wear warm clothing, comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella if rain looks likely.

Participants are asked to bring proof they live in Stanislaus County. Nurses will give the shot in the upper arm, so participants should layer a short-sleeved shirt under warmer clothes.

Officials said preservative-free vaccine will be available at the clinics for pregnant women. No preservative-free vaccine will be available to children at the clinics because of a nationwide recall of that type of the vaccine. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a waiver allowing children ages 6 months to 3 years to receive the regular vaccine, which contains small amounts of mercury.

Stanislaus County has reported 14 deaths and more than 190 people hospitalized because of H1N1 influenza, although the pandemic has eased in recent weeks.

Health officials believe the pandemic is still a threat. It is typical for flu viruses to surge between January and March in the Central Valley, Leung said.

"We are seeing a decline; however, we still want to be prepared," she said.

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

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