Anyone who wants a swine flu vaccination can get it effective Saturday, Dec. 12. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, in concert with other county health departments in Washington, today announced that vaccine distribution is being expanded to all residents.
The announcement coincides with the department’s Wednesday swine flu clinic series that started Dec. 9 and will continue on a weekly basis until further notice. The next clinic — Dec. 16 in the Health Department auditorium, 3629 S. D St., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — is open to everyone 6 months and older.
“The residents of Pierce County have shown patience during the past two months while H1N1 vaccine was in short supply. Now I’m happy to invite all residents to join their neighbors in getting vaccinated and preventing swine flu,” said Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen. Dropping the eligibility restrictions results from a combination of increased vaccination of people in the highest risk groups and improved vaccine supply.
The department last Thursday expanded vaccination eligibility to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s five target groups, making the vaccine available to an estimated 500,000 adults and children. Previously vaccine was available to subsets of the target groups totaling 150,000 adults and children. Now the vaccine becomes available to the county’s full population of more than 800,000 people.
“We are still emphasizing the target groups but also inviting all others to be vaccinated. No one will be turned away,” Chen said.
More than 200 people were vaccinated during the department’s first clinic, Dec. 9, which was limited to those in the target groups: Pregnant women; people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; all health care and emergency medical services personnel; all persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years; and people from ages 25 through 64 who have certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications. Children under 10 years of age who are due for their second vaccinations were also on the list.
Information about other clinics can be found by going to www.tpchd.org and clicking on H1N1. People also can e-subscribe on the Web site to public health news to receive daily H1N1 updates. For most clinics and pharmacies, people should call ahead to double check availability and to make an appointment.
Vaccine distribution, which starts at the federal level and drops through state health departments to counties, has been occurring for the past two months. The quantity was in the 10,000 doses per week range for the first month, and the rate has more than doubled since then.