MOUNT VERNON — Like many of the health departments in central Ohio, the Knox County Health Department has been forced to change its plans regarding distribution of H1N1 vaccine to students due to a delay in receiving the vaccine. The health department had hoped to start school-based clinics for all students next week, but until more vaccine arrives, it will conduct three clinics for specific groups of students.
On Monday and Wednesday from 4:30 to 7 p.m., the health department will offer H1N1 vaccine to medically fragile children, ages 3 to 18. Medically fragile children include those with chronic heart or lung disease, such as asthma or reactive airways disease; medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure; or illnesses that weaken the immune system, or those who take medications that can weaken the immune system. This group will receive the vaccine in the form of an injection or shot. There will be more than 600 doses in shot form.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the health department will offer the H1N1 vaccine to children ages 2 to 24, in the form of nasal spray only. There will be more than 1,500 doses of nasal spray available.
All clinics will take place at the health department, 11660 Upper Gilchrist Road. The H1N1 vaccine is free from the health department.
“By now, we had expected to receive enough vaccine to start the school-based clinics,” said Jackie Fletcher, R.N., director of nursing for the health department. “Since that has not happened, we are on to Plan B which is to get the vaccine we have to those who need it the most.”
The vaccine for medically fragile children will be in the form of an injection or shot because these children can not take the nasal spray. “We are anticipating that we will use up everything that we have in shot form at the Monday and Wednesday clinics, said Fletcher. “The majority of the vaccine we have received so far is in the form of nasal spray. The nasal spray is a very safe option for healthy children, ages 2-24 years and it’s less traumatic than getting a shot, said Fletcher.
The health department has not received any pediatric vaccine for H1N1. This is a specific injection vaccine for children 6 to 35 months of age that does not include thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. Children under 6 months old cannot be vaccinated against H1N1.
All children, ages 2 to 9 years of age getting the H1N1 vaccine either in shot or nasal spray form will need two doses of the vaccine. The second dose should be given 28 or more days after the first dose. The first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose of vaccine when they need two doses may have reduced or no protection. Those needing a second dose can return to the health department in 28 days to receive their second shot on a walk-in basis during normal clinic hours.
In anticipation of the school-based clinics, the health department sent 11,000 consent forms home with local students earlier this week. Signed forms were to be returned to the schools today.
“We are still hopeful that we will be doing school-based clinics for the other students, but it’s going to be a few more weeks,” said Fletcher. “We don’t expect vaccine for adults until later this year.”
Since Oct. 20, the health department has administered nearly 700 doses of H1N1 vaccine to healthcare workers; pregnant women; and caretakers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old.