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The flu fighters

Dozens get nasal flu vaccine at clinic

Dozens get nasal flu vaccine at clinic

December 31, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Getting protection against the flu became a family affair for Jennifer Coleman and her 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, on Tuesday as they and about 100 other people went to the Washington County Health Department for a new type of immunization.

Olivia Coleman of Hagerstown, sat in a health department building on Pennsylvania Avenue as the FluMist influenza vaccine was sprayed up both of her nostrils.

Some of the 5-year-old's classmates have the flu, her mother, Jennifer, said.

As Jennifer Coleman explained that they were getting the vaccination in part in response to media coverage about this year's strain being more serious than in past years, her son, Alonzo, 3, was feeling left out.

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"I never get to do anything," he said.

Told he could not get the immunization because the vaccine only is being given to people between the ages of 5 and 49, he said, "I'm 5." But he again was denied the medication.

Jennifer Coleman took her turn and was given the vaccine, which she said had a smell that reminded her of a hospital.

Earlier this month, the Health Department ran out of flu shot vaccines, causing it to cancel an influenza immunization clinic for children.

Since there was a nationwide flu shot shortage, the Health Department ordered and received 1,000 doses of the FluMist vaccine, which works just as well, County Health Officer William Christoffel said.

The Health Department took reservations for 100 people to get the vaccine Tuesday and almost all were given the immunization, he said. Donations of $30 were accepted to cover the cost of the vaccinations.

A second, larger flu vaccination clinic will be held during the week starting Jan. 12, but the exact date, time and location had not been determined, Christoffel said.

The department was waiting to see how Tuesday's clinic went before deciding if another clinic would be held.

Influenza is a highly infectious virus that has symptoms that include a sore throat, cough, chills and muscle aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC discourages people older than 50, women who are more than three months pregnant and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart and kidney disease, HIV infection and diabetes from getting the intranasal vaccine.

As a precautionary measure, Washington County residents with family members who have weakened immune systems were discouraged from getting the vaccine, Christoffel said.

While some health experts, and a few of the people receiving the vaccine Tuesday, said the flu seems more widespread this year, Christoffel said he does not think that is the case in Washington County.

The absentee rate in public schools has been about 10 percent, which is about normal for this time of year, he said.

He said he thinks more people are being tested for the flu because of the media coverage.

Melanie Gozora, of Williamsport, said some of the students at St. Mary's School, where she works, have been out sick with the flu. So when she read in the newspaper that the department was offering more immunizations, she said she thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm calling."

Diane Hutzel took her daughter, Amanda, 12, to have her vaccinated against the flu for the first time.

"It tasted like plastic," Amanda said of the nasal spray.

Barbara Spoonire, 21, said this was the first time she received medication nasally.

"It doesn't burn or anything?" she asked. After the quick procedure, she said it was painless.

Spoonire said she was sparked to get the vaccination because she soon is going to travel aboard a ship and was concerned she might risk getting the flu from others on the ship.

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