Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Oct. 26, 2009
Our View - Containing flu is just as important as vaccination
The folks over at the Johnson County Public Health Department say that most of the people calling recently with flu-related questions have wanted to know when the department will start holding public vaccine clinics for swine flu (H1N1). And the most likely answer is, "Not for at least a few weeks."
The county health department is a distribution point for the trickle of vaccine that is coming into Johnson County. But the small number of doses of vaccine already received has been targeted at the most at-risk populations:
• Health care providers (of which there are 12,000 who work or live in Johnson County),
• Pregnant women and
• People with chronic health conditions.
Unfortunately, the options are limited further because most of the vaccine arriving in the county comes as a nasal spray that isn't recommended for pregnant women and the chronically ill.
Health department officials say that, at least for the next few weeks, they will continue to work with local hospitals and other health care providers to distribute the limited amounts of vaccine to the target populations. Once vaccine production finally gets ramped up to the point that enough is available for a public clinic, however, the department will make the announcement to as many media outlets as possible.
In the meantime, Johnson County residents concerned about getting the vaccine should either check the department's Web site for more information (www.johnson-county.com/dept_health_H1N1.aspx?id6718) or ask their health care providers whether they've received vaccine to distribute.
The county's public health recommendations, however, would change little if more vaccine was made available today. The vaccine takes at least two weeks to become effective.
"It's not a magic bullet," said Tricia Kitzmann, deputy director of Johnson County public health.
That means both the vaccinated and unvaccinated population should continue to take the necessary precautions to limit the spread of H1N1 and other seasonal flu and sickness:
• Cover your mouth when you cough,
• Wash your hands often and
• Stay home if you or your children are sick with flu-like symptoms.
There's little Johnson County residents can do to speed up the process by which the vaccine is made more widely available. But there's much that Johnson County residents can do to limit their own risk of exposure -- both before and after being vaccinated.
Once sufficient amount of the vaccine is made available in Johnson County, however, we urge our readers at risk of H1N1 to vaccinate themselves and their children.