First H1N1 vaccines arrive in New Haven

New Haven health officials currently are overseeing the vaccination of city residents, not only against the seasonal flu but also against the H1N1 virus.

Since the New Haven Health Department received its first shipment of the swine flu vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distribution contractor last week, the department’s director, William Quinn, said the city’s initial allotment of H1N1 vaccine is in the process of being distributed. He did not say how much vaccine the city has received to date.

However, while health officials had previously claimed that individuals at high risk for developing complications due to the flu should be prioritized for vaccination, those same individuals are not optimal candidates for the vaccine now available because it contains a weakened, but still live, strand of the virus.

Moreover, when the health department does receive a vaccine suitable for high-risk individuals, it will “dribble in,” Quinn said.

Currently, the H1N1 vaccine in New Haven health care providers’ possession is administered as a nasal mist, which contains a live strand of the H1N1 virus. As such, it can only be distributed to healthy individuals who are not at risk for developing complications.

An alternate form of the vaccine, which is administered via injection and is also suitable for high-risk individuals, will not be available until mid to late next week, Quinn said.

In accordance with the guidelines set forth by the CDC, the Connecticut Department of Public Health has said it will prioritize the vaccinations of both pregnant women or infants less than six months old, when it receives the injectable vaccine.

When the shipment does come, the New Haven Health Department will likely receive approximately 100 doses, Quinn said.

In preparation for the vaccine’s arrival next week, Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango has brought a resolution before New Haven’s Human Services Committee. If the resolution is approved by the Board of Aldermen, New Haven will apply to the Connecticut Department of Public Health for $53,068 to help defray any costs the city incurs in receiving, storing and distributing the vaccine to city residents.

Connecticut will likely receive more than 500,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine by mid October, according to the public health department, though the exact quantity New Haven will receive has not yet been determined and will be decided as the department of public health continually reevaluates the needs of the state’s communities.

Still, the H1N1 vaccine is not the only immunization effort receiving the New Haven Health Department’s attention as the annual flu season is beginning to get underway. This year, the New Haven Health Department is starting a program to provide the seasonal flu vaccine to as many city residents as possible and is in the process of dispensing at least 3,000 doses.

In addition to the normal distribution centers such as schools and health care providers, this fall, New Haven health officials have set aside 200 doses for the city’s homeless and other needy individuals, to be dispensed at food pantries and churches across the greater New Haven area.

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