MOUNT VERNON — At a meeting this week of the Knox County Local Emergency Planning Committee, chairman of the committee Knox County Health Commissioner Dennis Murray told his fellow committee members despite the current lull in the number of people infected with the H1N1 virus, Knox County has almost surely not seen the last of H1N1 this flu season.
Murray said at this point, about 16 percent of the population of Knox County has received the vaccine. “That’s the highest in the central region,” Murray told the committee. “Almost 9,000 were vaccinated.”
Vaccination clinics held in schools across the county were especially successful according to Murray. He said health department employees are currently calling the parents of children 10 and under who received a single dose of the vaccine.
In children younger than 11, two doses of the H1N1 vaccine by injection or nasal spray are required to build a child’s immunity to the disease. A single dose is not effective in young children.
The second dose is available at the health department’s office on Upper Gilchrist Road on a walk-in basis. The vaccine is available now to anyone in the county wishing to be immunized. There is no cost for the vaccine.
Murray said the county’s battle with H1N1 is not yet over. “I am expecting another wave,” he said. “People still need to get the shot.” He added that those people who had become ill with the disease before being immunized, still should receive the vaccination, even if their case had been confirmed by a doctor.
Unlike diseases such as chicken pox which a person can not usually catch more than once, H1N1 infection does not cause a person to develop a lifelong immunity, according to Murray.
He encouraged all Knox County residents, especially those in high-risk populations, to get the vaccine before the next expected wave of infection hits the county.
Murray said the health department also has some seasonal flu vaccine available. “It’s not too late to get a seasonal flu shot, and seniors particularly are encouraged to do this,” he said.
Both vaccines can be administered at the same time, according to Murray, who said he expects next year that H1N1 will be a part of the seasonal flu vaccine.
He said it was disappointing that so many Knox County residents had so far refused to be vaccinated against H1N1 because of concerns about side effects.
“A lot of people chose not to get it, and we think that was due to a lot of misinformation,” he told the LEPC members. “There have not been those complications, and I would still encourage people to get it.”