H1N1 vaccine is now available to a select group of UI students

BY SAM LANE | NOVEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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There was a slightly larger crowd than normal at UI Student Health Service on Oct. 30.

The day before, Westlawn received its first 150 doses of the coveted injectable form of the H1N1 vaccine.

Now, students with certain conditions, such as pregnant women, can also receive flu vaccinations. Previously, the intranasal or mist form of the vaccine was found to cause health complications.

Health-science students involved in direct patient care who have medical conditions incompatible with the nasal spray can also use the injectable type.

“We’re incrementally getting the word out,” said Lisa James, the administrative director of Student Health. “We’ve just recently been allowed to branch out.”

Student Health held its first official clinics to administer the vaccine before the weekend. This shipment complements another similar-sized batch of intranasal vaccines that have also become available to some students.

In addition to these two shipments, James said the first batch of the vaccine arrived at Student Health in mid-October, but was solely for its workers.

In recent weeks, she said, she has seen a slight increase in the number of patients who have come to Westlawn for influenza-like illnesses. Nearly one-third of the facility’s 160 daily visits can be attributed to influenza-like illnesses.

Student Health has received a number of calls from parents worried about whether their children will be able to receive the vaccine, James said. This has led to Student Health workers promptly releasing e-mails and information on the service’s website regarding vaccine availability.

Susan Chill, mother of UI freshman John Murray, said she urged her son to get the vaccine as soon as it was available.

“[H1N1] seems to have a worse effect on younger people,” said Cahill, who lives in Chicago. “College kids tend to run themselves down. Plus, if a college kid gets it, their parents aren’t around to take care of them.”

The Johnson County Public Health Department — Student Health Service’s source for the vaccine — has received 9,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine since it became available mid-October. Of these doses, 3,400 have been in the mist form.

Like Student Health, the county health department administered early vaccines to its workers and still has some available for high-risk individuals who would like to receive the vaccine at the county’s offices.

The rest have been given to the health agencies around the county, said Director Doug Beardsley.

“People are frustrated,” he said. “We understand that. Ten people may want [the vaccine], and we might only have one. We have to prioritize. We don’t even have enough for the priorities.”

The county health department will hold clinics by appointment Wednesday for those in the priority groups, Beardsley said.

No UI or county officials know when they will receive a substantial number of vaccines for the general population, James and Beardsley said.

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