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Health department: Mass vaccinations for H1N1

By Staff | Sep 30, 2009

The Lee County Health Department released its countywide plan Tuesday to deal with mass vaccinations for the H1N1 virus.
Nicknamed swine flu, the H1N1 virus will be available in a number of locations under the direction of the health department, Lee County School District, emergency management and United Way.
Once the vaccine is synthesized by the Centers for Disease Control and experts from the public and private sectors, it will be sent to manufacturers who are expected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars worth of vaccines.
The health department anticipates that the vaccine will be ready by mid-October for Lee County’s 593,000 residents, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The plan in place has been all summer in the making and it will be the tool to accomplish the mass vaccination project the Lee County Health Department will begin in mid-October,” said Dr. Judith Hartner, director of the health department.
H1N1 clinics will be open all week and on Saturdays once the vaccine is available.
Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for the health department, said one staff member can administer 25 vaccines in one hour.
“That is based on the number of staff we are looking at,” she said.
The health department’s goal is to vaccinate 190,000 people in four to five weeks. These are residents who fall under high risk groups.
“This is a massive initiative for all health departments across the country,” James-Mesloh said.
According to the plan, there is an increase in the number of Lee County residents contracting influenza. Lee Memorial Health System is seeing approximately 30 patients with flu symptoms each day, an increase from last month.
Local high schools will also be open to administer vaccinations.
While the health department has released an ambitious plan to end the spread of H1N1, volunteers are needed in order to get operations off the ground.
“We truly need your help as a volunteer and are confident that with the support of this big-hearted community … we can do it,” said Hartner.
Professionally trained medical volunteers and non-medical volunteers are needed. Medical volunteers can help with the vaccinations, while the rest direct people around the clinic, register patients, enter data and stock supplies.
According to James-Mesloh, the health department needs 500 volunteers each week. She added that this initiative is on the same level as the Hurricane Charley relief effort.
Applications to volunteer are available in local libraries and at: www.leeeoc.com. Once an application has been submitted, coordinators will contact volunteers on the next orientation session.
The health department continues to insist that Lee County residents continue to wash their hands regularly, use proper coughing etiquette such as coughing into an arm, and stay home if they exhibit symptoms.
The CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women, people with children younger than 6 months, health care workers, people between the age of 6 months and 24, and people ages 25 to 64 with a compromised immune system receive the vaccine.
For more information, visit the Lee County Health Department at: www.leechd.com.