Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Don’t miss chance to get flu vaccination

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department is providing H1N1 vaccination clinics for all persons.

As the County’s Public Health Officer, I want to advise residents that the H1N1 flu remains a public health epidemic and to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated. The best prevention of H1N1 influenza is the H1N1 vaccine, and I encourage residents to take advantage of the current window of opportunity to get vaccinated. Local vaccine availability is at its highest because of recent increases in manufacturers’ production and distribution and decreases in the demand for the vaccine.

Although you may have seen some national media reports that influenza activity in many states is on the decline, the numbers are still well above average for this time of year both nationally and in California. Illness due to H1N1 remains widespread in California and more hospitalizations and fatalities occur each week. Pandemics are unpredictable and media speculation about historical influenza waves and peaks do not necessarily pertain to a new virus such as H1N1.

There is also some speculation about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine. Getting the H1N1 flu vaccine is much safer than getting H1N1 flu. Some people getting vaccinated will have mild side effects such as pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given or a runny nose and headache after the nasal spray vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration closely monitor for any signs that the new vaccines cause unexpected adverse events. A recent CDC report indicates that the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine is showing a similar safety profile to seasonal flu vaccines, which have a very good safety track record.

Finally, I want to thank the Public Health Department staff and all of our local health care providers participating in this countywide vaccination effort. Every vaccinated person helps quell this pandemic and saves lives.

Please contact your health care provider or the Public Health Department (781-5500, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) for more information about the availability of the vaccine.

Penny Borenstein is the County Health Officer for the County of San Luis Obispo.