By ANDREW W. GRIFFIN
Oklahoma Watchdog, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY — For those concerned about the impending flu season, the government will be making the seasonal flu vaccine available again this year.
Except this year, there is a difference -the normal seasonal flu vaccine will be combined with swine flu (H1N1) vaccine as well.
“The 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine will include the H1N1 strain that was responsible for the 2009 pandemic,” said Vicki Monks, media spokesperson for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
Monks pointed to a February 2010 press release on the Flu.gov website that states: “Today’s recommendation to include protection against the 2009 H1N1 flu strain in next season’s flu vaccine was made by the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The committee’s recommendations typically guide vaccine manufacturers in preparing each season’s flu vaccines. The World Health Organization has made the same recommendation.This recommendation will go into effect for next fall’s flu season. In the meantime, you can still protect yourself against the H1N1 flu by getting your H1N1 vaccine now.”
More information on this vaccine plan is noted at the Virology blog with the story “Trivalent influenza vaccine for the 2010-2011 season.”
Monks said the seasonal flu vaccine will be available at OCCHD sometime around the first week in October, although a precise date was not yet made available.
“We will be charging $25 for flu shots this year, because of budget cutbacks at the state level,” Monks said. “All of the county health departments in the state will implement the $25 charge.”
Monks added that children who qualify for the “Vaccines for Children” program are eligible to receive the flu vaccination at no charge., while the Oklahoma State Department of Health is “currently in discussions with the counties about guidelines for providing flu shots for adults who cannot afford to pay.”
Currently, over 750 clinics and doctor’s offices in Oklahoma participate in the “Vaccines for Children” program.
Said Monks: “We will not turn anyone away because of an inability to pay. Our primary goal is to protect public health by reducing the incidence of disease, and vaccinations are an important part of that effort.”
Monks did also note that private providers such as pharmacies and physicians may have flu shots available before the October release date.
And it appears local pharmacies in Oklahoma City are already pushing the flu vaccines, considering that on two recent visits to a Walgreen’s, pharmacists aggressively tried to get this reporter to sign up for a flu vaccine. This website discovered that Walgreen’s is pushing this in a press report that said “the CDC expects the 2009 H1n1 virus to cause illness again this upcoming season along with other season flu viruses …”
For more information on Oklahoma Watchdog‘s coverage of the swine flu (H1N1) issue, note our recent story “Swine flu hype has passed in Oklahoma but concerns remain.”
And in today’s edition of the Tulsa World, health reporter Kim Archer wrote that the H1N1 virus had “largely run its course.” Of course it was noted that 45 Oklahomans died last year and 1,300 were hospitalized during the swine flu pandemic of ’09.
Copyright 2010 Oklahoma Watchdog