Children to get swine flu vaccine first
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HARRISBURG -- Healthy children ages 5 to 9 will be among the first in the state to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.
The state applied yesterday for its share of 250 million doses of vaccine that the federal government is providing.
The vaccine should be on hand and ready for distribution in a week or two, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Health said yesterday.
The first doses available will be in the form of a nasal mist that will be given to children ages 5 to 9. The vaccine is administered in two doses, ideally 28 days apart.
"In order to maximize disease prevention and control ... it's very important to try to start vaccinating these younger individuals who require two doses," said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the state's acting physician general. "If we wait to get started on these younger groups it will be more than a month after the first dose before we start seeing the fully productive benefit."
Vaccine shipments will begin arriving slowly and will first be targeted to areas of Pennsylvania that have had the most reported cases of swine flu: the southeast, southwest and north central areas of the state.
Children are being targeted first because they are prime transmitters of diseases in schools, their families and their communities, Dr. Ostroff said at a news conference.
Other targeted groups -- most of whom will require a single dose by injection -- include pregnant women, those between six months and 24 years old, health care providers, people who care for children under 6 months old and people under 65 with underlying medical conditions. Those over 65 are not part of the target group because very few of them have been sickened by swine flu.
By January, the state expects to receive 7 million doses, enough to vaccinate more than half the population. Health officials say that will be more than enough for those who will want the voluntary vaccine.
The H1N1 vaccine does not replace the seasonal flu vaccine. People will need to get both vaccines to be protected from both forms of influenza, said the state's said Dr. Ostroff.
Some physicians and schools may offer vaccine clinics while other providers will offer them as part of scheduled office visits, Dr. Ostroff said.
First Published October 1, 2009 12:00 am