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H1N1 vaccine available locally by mid-November

WORTHINGTON -- The first shipments of H1N1 vaccine are now arriving in Nobles County, but don't rush to your local clinic just yet.

"People are going to start to hear that the H1N1 influenza vaccine is coming to the state, and what they may not understand is there are different types of categories for people who can receive the H1N1 vaccine at first," said Director of Nobles-Rock Community Health Services Brad Meyer. "Eventually it will be available to the general population and when that happens we'll definitely make the public aware."

Meyer said the vaccine is expected to be available to the public by mid-November.

The nasal spray H1N1 vaccine now in stock is intended for health care workers and emergency medical personnel ages of 49 and younger who are not pregnant. Meyer said it's not anticipated there will be any spray vaccines left over for the general public.

The first round of H1N1 injectable vaccines are expected to arrive in the area within two to three weeks, with priority going to pregnant women, people who live with or care for children ages 6 months to 4 years of age, and children ages 5-18 with chronic health conditions such as respiratory or heart problems, or those with diabetes.

When those groups of people have received their shots, NRCHS will organize a series of clinics at sites throughout the community where the general public can receive the vaccine for free.

"We expect to see weekly shipments or shipments every two weeks. They'll be very limited and we may only get 50 to 100 doses at a time," Meyer explained. "We have to wait until we get a large amount of doses before we can do a public clinic, because of the amount of people who will come through."

Meyer said the H1N1 vaccine is made the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine and is just as safe, but those with questions may call their doctor or NRCHS at 295-5272, or visit the Web site at

With few exceptions, "Everyone 6 months and older will be eligible and should be vaccinated, if they want, by the end of December," he said.

Local clinics will also offer the vaccine for a yet-to-be announced charge.

The seasonal flu vaccine (not H1N1) is in short supply, but Sterling Drug on Oxford Street does have the vaccine available for $30 per person. The cost can be billed to Medicare and Medicaid, and some private insurance companies will reimburse the expense of the shot. Sterling Drug is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sanford Clinic Worthington is expecting more shipments of the vaccine at a yet-to-be-determined date, while the Murray County Clinic expects more by the end of October or in November. Guide Point Pharmacy is seeking more, but it's unclear whether more vaccines will be obtained. The other area pharmacies and clinics contacted by the Daily Globe no longer had vaccines in stock and were not expecting any more shipments.

Illness levels are starting to rise in at least one area school; 100 students were absent from Prairie Elementary on Monday, 76 of them with flu-like symptoms, and Meyer said clinics are also seeing an increase in appointments for people reporting flu like symptoms.

He reminded people who feel ill that getting rest and drinking plenty of clear fluids is still the best remedy.

"Unless people have a chronic medical condition, or they start having difficulty breathing, they really don't need to go to the doctor, they should just take care of themselves at home," he said. Health care professionals aren't testing for the H1N1 virus unless the person is admitted to the hospital.