State health officials have announced the expansion of H1N1 influenza vaccine priority groups to include young adults ages 19-24, all health care workers, and caregivers of infants less than 6 month old.
These new groups are in addition to previously announced priority groups.
Health officials emphasize that H1N1 influenza continues to be widespread across Oklahoma. Since September 1, 804 Oklahomans have been hospitalized due to complications from influenza and 20 persons have died. Ninety percent of the H1N1-related deaths have been persons less than 65 years old. This finding contrasts significantly with seasonal flu which tends to cause the greatest proportion of deaths among persons older than 65 years. The best protection against getting the flu is to receive the vaccine for H1N1 and seasonal flu.
While supply of the vaccine is still limited, priority groups for Oklahomans who should receive the H1N1 vaccine follow recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include the following:
• All children, adolescents and young adults ages 6 months – 24 years
• Pregnant women
• All healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
• Any person who lives with, or provides care for, infants less than six months (e.g., parents, siblings and daycare providers)
• Persons 25-64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications such as diabetes, asthma & other chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, cancer, and other conditions that suppress the immune system.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) expects an additional 80,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine to be delivered to the state this week. The doses include both nasal spray and injectable vaccines.
People seeking vaccinations will be screened to ensure that they meet a priority group definition for H1N1 vaccine and to verify Oklahoma residency. People not included in one of the priority groups are encouraged to be patient, as state officials expect to continue to expand availability as supplies allow. In addition to providing vaccine through regularly scheduled clinics, county health departments have begun to distribute vaccine to private providers with an emphasis on practices that serve children and pregnant women. These providers have signed agreements with the OSDH to follow priority group guidelines targeting those with the greatest need.
For more information about the availability of H1N1 influenza vaccine in your area, call your local county health department or visit www.health.ok.gov, or call the Oklahoma State Department of Health toll-free H1N1 hotline at: 1-866-278-7134. Phones are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.