U.S. health officials say that doctor’s offices across the country could be receiving the H1N1 swine flu vaccine as early as Oct. 5. However, the arrival date is unknown for the vaccine to reach the hundreds of Indian Health Service facilities, including the IHS Pawhuska clinic.
“We haven’t been told how many vaccines we’re going to get in the state but we’ve been told that everyone’s going to get one,” said Ken Cadaret, director of field operations for the immunization service for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “We’ve been told that Oklahoma is to receive 1.8 million doses, and they’re designating as to how to distribute them.”
The state is ordering the H1N1 vaccine Sept. 30 and expects to have the vaccine no later than that following week, Cadaret said. OSDH will then distribute the vaccine to counties, county health departments, and providers that show the greatest need. The initial shipment will be the nasal mist, with the injectable vaccine to arrive in mid-October.
“We’re looking at counties, looking at the numbers of high risk groups, coming up with a percentage,” Cadaret said. “For example, if there is more pregnant women in one county versus another then we’re going to give it to that county, that’s how we’re approaching it statewide.”
The Pawhuska Indian Health Service clinic is on that list to receive the vaccine, said Julie Erb-Alvarez, epidemiologist for the Oklahoma City Area Office for Indian Health Service. She and her team have been coordinating with the OSDH to make sure that as soon as it’s available IHS facilities all over the state will get the vaccine.
“Exact delivery dates, quantities and breakdown is not yet known although estimates of high risk and total population have been given to the OSDH Immunization Service,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Weekly influenza updates are sent out by the IHS Area Epidemiologist each Friday to Tribal Leaders and federal, Tribal, and urban Indian facilities in the Oklahoma Area.”
The H1N1 vaccine is to be distributed in allotments to all 50 states, with the states showing widespread H1N1 outbreaks to receive it first. Oklahoma is in its third week of widespread flu activity. The state health departments are then supposed to work with IHS officials to determine exactly how much of the vaccine each facility will receive. Since the first doses of the vaccine to each state will be limited, only the facilities that have the most high-risk patients will receive larger doses of the vaccine, Cadaret said.
“[The Pawhuska IHS clinic], we’ll give them all we can. What we’ll be doing is giving the vaccine to the [IHS area office in Oklahoma City] and they’ll distribute it to their assessment,” Cadaret said. “The Indian population has issues with diabetes and so that’s very important to us to get adequate vaccine to the population at risk.”
At-risk populations include children under age two, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with chronic health problems and children under the age of 19 receiving long-term aspirin therapy, because of increased risk of Reye syndrome.
Swine flu on Osage campus
Employees of the Osage Nation have been asked to stay home from work if they are showing flu-like symptoms, which include a fever, sore throat and a cough.
“The employees, during this time, they need to get informed of the dangers of swine flu and take extra precautions,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray in a telephone interview Friday from his home. “Keep your desk clean, wash your hands, for more information refer them to Marie Rumsey [director of the Nation’s Clinical/Medical Department].”
Gray, along with others that work on the Nation’s campus, has been diagnosed with H1N1. Because of the illness, Gray was unable to make the opening remarks at Friday’s U.S. Senate on Indian Affairs Roundtable at the Osage Million Dollar Elm Event Center in Tulsa.
Approximately 300 people work on the main tribal campus and an all-employee meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday to educate employees on how to prevent the illness, as well as educate those that may have to take care of someone with the flu.
Currently the IHS clinic in Pawhuska has no confirmed swine flu cases but the clinic isn’t testing for the illness because the test is expensive to administer and the treatment for swine flu and the seasonal flu are the same, Rumsey said.
“Swine flu is a Type A flu,” Rumsey said. “They’re assuming it’s swine if you test positive for any flu right now.”
For more information about the H1N1 swine flu or to inquire when the Pawhuska IHS clinic has the vaccine, contact the Clinical/Medical Service department at (918) 287-5525.
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