Task force members discuss flu response in Cape Girardeau County

Friday, October 9, 2009
FILE - This Oct. 5, 2007 file photo shows a nurse filling a syringe with a flu vaccination at a CVS pharmacy in the Brooklyn Borough of New York. U.S. health officials say swine flu could strike up to 40 percent of Americans over the next two years and as many as several hundred thousand could die if a vaccine campaign and other measures aren't successful. Those estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mean about twice the number of people who usually get sick in a normal flu season would be struck by swine flu. Officials said those projections would drop if a new vaccine is ready and widely available, as U.S. officials expect. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Minutes after receiving the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine Thursday afternoon, Dr. Ed LaValle voiced little concern about his dosage.

"There wasn't any discomfort except for a small aftertaste in the back of my throat," LaValle said during a break of an infectious disease task force meeting. "I've heard all kinds of rumors about safety issues about receiving the vaccine, but there's no reason to think that a major complication could happen."

LaValle, an infectious disease specialist with Medical Specialists of Southeast Missouri, was one of about 50 physicians, emergency responders, county government and law enforcement personnel who attended the meeting at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center. The task force discussed the H1N1 virus, vaccine efforts in Cape Girardeau County and some people's concerns about the swine flu vaccine.

One of the most common misperceptions, health center director Charlotte Craig said, is that many who receive the vaccine could develop severe or even deadly complications. A recent Associated Press poll found that 72 percent of those surveyed worried about side effects of the vaccine.

"I don't know why so many people would believe that something like that could happen if you get the vaccine," Craig said. "We hope everyone will think about getting it."

The Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center received its first shipment of the H1N1 vaccine late Monday. Craig said about 75 vaccines had been administered through Thursday to health care workers and emergency responders. Representatives from Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center were expected Thursday to pick up their allotment of 75 doses each from the health center. The remainder will be distributed to local doctors' offices.

While she expects to receive additional shipments of the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine in coming weeks, Craig said she is unsure when the injectable vaccine will arrive.

"We have no control over what we'll receive or when we'll get it," Craig said. "It all comes from the top down to the local level. But eventually everyone who wants to get the vaccine will be able to get it."

Though the H1N1 vaccine is expected to be readily available, the vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza may be harder to come by. The health center was forced to cancel its remaining five scheduled flu shot clinics because it had received a partial shipment of 1,750 from its distributor, E-Med. Craig had said earlier she expected to receive the remainder of the order by early November, but now she believes that will no longer happen.

"The opportunity for optimism has diminished," Craig said. "We won't get any new flu vaccines."

Through Oct. 3, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 571 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu, including one in Cape Girardeau County. Department spokesman Kit Wagar said the number of cases is probably much higher because many people who have contracted the virus never get tested or visit their doctor.

The task force was created in 2005 in anticipation of an event like the H1N1 virus. A group of physicians, law enforcement and other community leaders were brought together to set policy and offer advice to Craig and other health center officials.

"This task force is very important because it's not Charlotte Craig or [center assistant director] Jane Wernsman making the total decisions," Craig said. "It's a good mix of people who serve the community in all types of aspects putting in thoughts of how to best serve the citizens."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent address:

1121 Linden St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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