About 100 doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health care workers received swine flu vaccinations Monday as Indiana took its first steps toward immunizing the public against the virus.
Workers at Wishard Memorial Hospital in downtown Indianapolis received the nasal mist vaccine in each of their nostrils, becoming the first people inoculated against the virus in Indiana.
Paramedic Matt Trownsel was among the very first to receive the vaccine nationwide; that left him uneasy, but not enough to pass it up.
“It doesn’t have an established track record,” he said while waiting for his vaccination. Afterward, he said the mist “tickled a little bit.”
Donna Ireland, 38, an ophthalmology technician, said she was eager to get the vaccine because she might be exposed to the virus at the hospital and because she has three teenagers at home.
“I’ve read a lot about it,” she said. “I’m also going to vaccinate my children.”
The health workers lined up to receive their vaccinations at Wishard’s occupational health clinic as scores of colleagues, health officials and journalists looked on.
Initial shipments of the nasal mist vaccine are so small that in most cases they’re being reserved for health workers so they’re well enough to care for others.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department in Indianapolis, said her agency received 5,200 doses of the vaccine Monday morning. It was distributing the first doses to hospitals with recommendations to vaccinate employees who work in emergency rooms, critical care units and pediatric care.
Caine said Wishard’s emergency room has seen 2,324 patients complaining of flu symptoms since July, or more than three times the 687 flu patients it saw during the same period last year.
Dr. Jay Butler, director of the H1N1 Vaccine Task Force at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, termed Monday’s first vaccinations a “milestone” and said thousands of locations across the country will be vaccinating people in the coming weeks.
“It is a flow, and it has started. And in the coming weeks, more vaccine will become available, including the injectable form of the vaccine,” Butler said.
The nasal mist is available only for healthy persons ages 2-49 who are not pregnant. When the injectable form becomes available in a few weeks, the target groups to receive it will include pregnant women, children, adolescents and young people ages 6 months to 24 and those who care for them, and older people who have chronic medical conditions.
“The H1N1 flu vaccine is safe and effective, and it’s a way to protect you and your families,” said Dr. Judy Monroe, Indiana’s health commissioner.
Monroe has said 28,700 doses of the nasal spray vaccine were due to arrive at health departments around Indiana this week. In the coming months, Indiana will receive about 4 million doses of both types of vaccine, enough for about a third of the state’s population of 6.38 million people. The CDC recommends two doses for children 9 years old and under.
Each person receiving the vaccine was given a flyer with information about it, including some mild side effects. Adults ages 18-49 have reported runny noses, cough, chills, fatigue, sore throats and headaches. Some children and adolescents ages 2-17 have reported runny noses, cough, fevers, wheezing, headache and muscle aches, and abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
Despite those potential problems, paramedic Jennifer McFarland, 30, a paramedic and EMS manager, said getting the seasonal flu vaccine each year has left her confident the swine flu vaccine will be effective.
“It’s manufactured the same way as the seasonal vaccine, and I never get the flu,” McFarland said.
On the Net:
State of Indiana’s flu site: http://www.in.gov/flu
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