Health departments in Manatee and Sarasota counties have placed orders for the first doses of the H1N1 vaccinations.
The Manatee County Health Department will be allocated 1,700 doses of the nasal mist H1N1 vaccination, while the Sarasota County Health Department ordered 2,100 doses of the nasal spray.
They expect to receive the vaccinations within 10 days, and both departments plan to distribute them to physicians. The government is issuing the vaccine for free, but private providers are allowed to charge an administration fee.
“Physicians will make a judgment call on issuing the vaccines,” said Ron Cox, epidemiologist for the Manatee County Health Department.
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Physicians will issue the nasal spray to patients between the ages of 2 to 49. A majority of those considered high risk for swine flu, however, will have to wait for the injectable vaccine. They include pregnant women, children ages 6 months to 2 years, people with existing medical conditions and adults 50 and older. The nasal spray contains a live, non-infectious virus not recommended for these groups.
The injectable H1N1 vaccination uses a dead virus.
Crystal Bruce, spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Health Department, said the agency will place its second order Wednesday that will include the H1N1 injection. The number of injections Sarasota County will be allotted is not yet known, but Bruce said they should arrive within seven to 10 days from Wednesday.
“The vaccines will trickle in on a weekly basis in small amounts, but we expect we’ll have most of the 140,000 doses for most at-risk groups by Thanksgiving,” Bruce said.
While physicians get the first H1N1 vaccines, the Manatee County Health Department will coordinate with the school district to see that the nasal spray and injections are administered.
“The health department has asked us to assist in providing immunizations at the schools,” said Forrest Branscomb, Manatee County School District’s risk manager.
Health department officials met late Monday to discuss plans for coordinating with the school district on the vaccines.
Branscomb said one major detail the school district is waiting on is a time schedule for issuing the vaccines.
“There have been discussions about during school, but nothing has been finalized because we haven’t received a plan from them,” Branscomb said.
Sue Troxler, the Manatee County School District’s health service specialist, asked parents be patient and flexible. “As we have information and when we’re sure of something, we’ll put it out as soon as possible,” Troxler said. “We are watching history unfold as we speak. This is a huge monumental undertaking.”
Depending on vaccine availability, the initial process of distribution may not go as smoothly as district officials anticipate, she said.
“It’s not that we don’t have a system in place; the big unknown is just how soon we’ll get it,” Troxler said. “So we are trying to make plans and preparations yet stay flexible.”
Whether store pharmacies will be able to provide the H1N1 vaccine will depend on whether there is enough vaccine. The CDC uses state population to determine how many doses each state will receive.
“We’re in the process of registering in all states to set up CVS stores as distribution points,” said Mike DeAngelis, spokesman for CVS. “But we’re still waiting to hear back from each state whether CVS will be selected.”
As of Monday, representatives at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Publix and WellCheck said they are still working to have their store pharmacies issued the vaccine.
The CDC determines how to issue the vaccines based on state population. Florida will get 6 percent of vaccines the CDC distributes because its population makes up 6 percent of the nation’s population, said Doc Kokol, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health.
The Florida Department of Health will then go by county populations to determine how to distribute the state’s allocation. As of July 2008, Manatee County’s population made up 1.72 percent of the state’s population, and Sarasota made up 2.03 percent of Floridians.
“The really important thing to stress here is this initial shipment is really quite a bonus for us,” Kokol said. Adults and children 10 and older will need only one vaccination instead of the originally expected two doses, Kokol said.
“That really freed up a lot of vaccine,” Kokol said.