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Target groups for H1N1 vaccine expanded
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The Effingham County Health Department is now offering the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine to additional target groups as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health departments are currently targeting the following groups for vaccination:

• Pregnant women because they are at higher risk of complications and can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be vaccinated.

• Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age because younger infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccination of those in close contact with infants less than 6 months old might help protect infants by “cocooning” them from the virus.

• Health care and emergency medical services personnel because infections among healthcare workers have been reported and this can be a potential source of infection for vulnerable patients. Also, increased absenteeism in this population could reduce health care system capacity.

• All people from 6 months through 24 years old

* Children from 6 months through 18 years of age because there have been many cases of H1N1 influenza in children and they are in close contact with each other in  school and day care settings, which increases the likelihood of disease spread, and;

* Young adults 19 through 24 years of age because we have seen many cases of H1N1 influenza in these healthy young adults and they often live, work and study in close proximity, and they are a frequently mobile population.

 “We will continue to prioritize the targeted groups for vaccination based on the amount of vaccine we have available,” said Dr. Diane Weems, chief medical officer for the Coastal Health District.

The Chatham and Effingham County Health Departments have a limited supply of the H1N1 flu vaccine in both the nasal spray and injectable form.

The nasal spray flu version is made with live, weakened viruses and the injectable version is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle.

Neither vaccine causes the flu.

The vaccine will be provided at no cost; however, Medicaid, Medicare and some private insurance can be billed for a nominal administration fee.