SLO County must wait for more flu vaccines

The county Public Health Department is no longer taking appointments for those who want to be vaccinated against the seasonal or swine flu, officials announced Friday.

That means residents seeking the shots will not be able to get them in the immediate future, department spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman said. A public announcement is expected as soon as more vaccine is received.

Shoresman said a 25 percent shortage of the regular flu vaccine is delaying orders across the state. Manufacturers of the vaccine are expected to send it out this month, but Shoresman said she could not guarantee when it would arrive.

County schools, in cooperation with the department, began distributing the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine to elementary school students Monday. Clinics were held at seven schools each day this week — vaccinating about 1,200 students.

The school clinics will continue in the coming week, increasing to five schools each day as the vaccine remains available.

Shoresman said that about half of eligible students at the schools received the vaccine.

“I don’t think we really had any expectations about how many people would want to have their children vaccinated,” Shoresman said. “Of course, we would like to vaccinate as many as we can to best protect those in the schools and the community at large. But we understand that all might not be willing or able to get vaccinated.”

The department reports 30 hospitalizations countywide to date and one death linked to H1N1 infection. There have been 153 laboratory confirmations of the disease — up from 111 cases reported one week ago. Health professionals in the county, state and nation said that the predominant influenza strain in the community is now H1N1.

The goal is to immunize at least 60 percent of San Luis Obispo County’s 34,000 public schoolchildren. Officials say that will provide what is known as “herd immunity,” which will prevent the spread of the disease.

However, the county does not yet have the needed number of doses of the vaccine, according to health officials.

The county Public Health Department received 5,600 doses of the vaccine in late October. Of that shipment, 1,800 vaccines were designated for elementary school clinics.

Once all elementary school students have been offered the vaccine, the county will offer it to middle and high school students.

A child must have a completed permission slip to receive a vaccination at school. Parents who need a copy of the consent form can get one at the Public Health H1N1 Web site www.slocounty.ca.gov/health/publichealth/swineflu.htm or through the county Office of Education at www.slocoe.org.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.