The county's communicable disease task force has established criteria for the disbursement of the flu vaccine.
Category 1 patients, who will get top priority, include: residents of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities; persons 65 years of age and older; patients with certain chronic diseases; youth on long-term aspirin therapy who might be at risk for Reye syndrome after influenza; and women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
Until sufficient amounts of the vaccine are received by PAHCS, they will be contacting these high-priority patients individually to come in for the vaccine.
Category 2, the next priority for the vaccine, consists of medical personnel and families of people in these high-risk groups.
Healthy persons wishing to have the vaccine as a preventative measure will have to wait this year. PAHCS will be making announcements when they have the vaccine available for the general public.
Because of manufacturing problems, there have been shortages across the country. PAHCS ordered 2,200 doses of this year's vaccine, but had only received a couple dozen doses from its supplier prior to last week.
"Traditionally," explained patient care administrator Bev Mueller, "you get what you want and it's here by September."
The first doses of the vaccination PAHCS got from Stearns County, for distribution to residents of the Good Samaritan Care Center and the Koronis Manor, and not through normal channels.
It does take a couple of weeks for the vaccine to provide maximum protection. Normally, vaccinations start in October, but they will be delayed this year.
The good news is that the word now is that enough of the vaccine will be produced for everyone who wants a shot to get one. There were earlier fears of a shortage. "They've made enough," said J.D. Anderson, a Pharm.D. at PAHCS. "It's just a matter of distributing it."
With flu season extending through the winter, the vaccine still is worth getting in December.
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