You still can get the H1N1 influenza vaccine

Published 9:40 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

It’s not too late to get vaccinated for the H1N1 virus or the seasonal flu.

That’s the message local and state health officials hope to spread this week in anticipation of the annual “Ban the Bug” campaign next week.

“We encourage people to come and get the vaccine,” said Freeborn County Public Health Director Lois Ahern. “Certainly we want parents to bring their children back for the second doses, too.”

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To promote the vaccinations, Freeborn County Public Health has scheduled two more H1N1 flu clinics, one on Jan. 14 in Albert Lea and one on Jan. 20 in Alden. The vaccination will be free with no administration fee.

Though the H1N1 vaccine supply was initially limited to people with the highest risk, the vaccine is now available to the entire population.

“We’ve done what we can to vaccinate our children and those most vulnerable to H1N1. Now it’s time for the rest of us to be vaccinated,” said Kristin Ehresmann, director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s infectious disease division, in a news release. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.”

The release stated while influenza illnesses have declined in Minnesota, there is still sporadic activity. Four states still have widespread flu activity and 13 report regional activity.

“Influenza may continue for several weeks or months yet, and it’s possible that other waves of influenza may occur, caused by H1N1 or regular seasonal flu viruses,” according to the release.

“In previous pandemics of novel influenza strains, third waves have occurred in winter following spring and fall waves.”

Ehresmann said influenza is unpredictable.
What: Two H1N1 immunization clinics

When: Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: Crossroads Evangelical Free Church, 3402 Hoeger Lane, Albert Lea

When: Jan. 20 from 2 to 6 p.m.

Where: Alden Community Center, Alden

What else: Clinics are open to everyone. To print out the administration form in advance, go to The form can be found under “Hot Topics.”
“We don’t know what will happen in the future, but we can give ourselves some assurance and certainty with a flu shot or nasal spray,” she added.

Ahern estimated that more than one-tenth of the county population has already been immunized against the H1N1 virus. That includes vaccinations given through the county and at Albert Lea Medical Center. Pharmacies are also starting to administer the vaccine.

While the vaccine is available for everyone, it is strongly recommended for the following:

Children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years

People ages 25 through 64 with chronic medical conditions that put them at risk for complications from influenza

Pregnant women

Health care providers and emergency medical services personnel

People living with or caring for children under 6 months of age.

According to the Department of Health release, some national polls have indicated that some people shied away from the H1N1 vaccine because of their perceptions about its safety.

However, Ehresmann pointed out, a number of national studies and routine monitoring by state health departments are providing evidence that the vaccine is as safe and effective as regular, seasonal flu vaccine.

“The CDC estimates more than 60 million people have already been immunized and no safety issues have yet turned up,” she said.

People are also encouraged to get their seasonal flu vaccine, if they have not already done so.

To get a seasonal flu shot through Freeborn County Public Health, Ahern encouraged people to call the Public Health Office at 377-5100 to make an appointment.

Cost for this immunization is $25 cash or people can bring their Medicare card, Medicare Advantage Plan card or Medical Assistance card.

“Ban the Bug” week coincides with the Centers for Disease Control’s national Influenza Vaccination Week.