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Letters to the Editor

December 07, 2009

Health department appreciates patience on H1N1 vaccine



To the editor:

In the early spring of this year, it became evident to those of us who work in public health that this year's flu season was going to be different from any other that most of us have seen. It was in April that reports began to circulate that a new strain of flu, the H1N1 virus, or Swine flu, was emerging in Mexico and that death rates seemed higher than those traditionally seen associated with seasonal flu, especially among the young.

The virus was isolated, vaccine production began, and state and local health departments implemented plans for vaccine distribution.

However, distribution plans presupposed the ready availability of medications to be dispensed, and in the case of H1N1, vaccine production lagged significantly behind demand. In fact, it lagged behind initial estimates of vaccine production capacity. The result was a nationwide shortfall of vaccine availability that presented local health departments with the dilemma of how to make the vaccine available to specific target populations once it was obtained.

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These target populations, as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include half of Washington County's population. The target groups include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people between the ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Because vaccine production for H1N1 flu took precedence over the seasonal flu vaccine production, several scheduled seasonal clinics for Washington County had to be curtailed and canceled due to lack of vaccine.

In light of all of this, the Washington County Health Department's approach to getting vaccine to the community has been to hold limited clinics for specific high-risk individuals who receive vaccinations by appointment only. The reason for the appointment requirement is that it minimizes uncertainty for the client and allows us to know how many doses of vaccine will be required. I realize that this process has caused some frustration for those who have been unable to get through on the phone lines, but we believe that this is a more considerate way to deal with the supply problem. The only other option would be mass, open clinics held with the certainty that large numbers of people would wait for long periods of time only to be turned away when vaccine supplies ran out. This has already happened at three of our previously scheduled seasonal flu clinics held in September, and the frustration of those turned away was matched by our own.

So far this flu season the Health Department has held four mass seasonal flu vaccination clinics, conducted an H1N1 nasal spray vaccination campaign for elementary students in public and private schools, and held four H1N1 clinics at the agency's main building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Additional clinics are currently being planned.

Health Department staff appreciate the community's patience and understanding. We are beginning to see an increase in vaccine availability and that vaccine will be distributed in the most orderly manner possible after it reaches us.

Earl E. Stoner, MPH
Washington County Health Officer

Editor's note: For more information, see the county health department's Web site at www.washhealth.org.




Teen pregnancy: same old line



To the editor:

I have met some of the most incredible women since I moved to Hagerstown. They are strong, hard working and don't seem to let life beat them down. My work puts me in touch with lots of women and I marvel at the strength and faith so many of these ladies show when life has been less than fair with them.

I look at the younger women of today, though, and fear for their futures. As I watched Bristol Palin, who was pregnant while her mother campaigned to become vice president, I wondered if any of the girls she has now spoken with really understand how horrific teen pregnancy is.

Girl meets boy and is so excited. "Yes, he is the one!" These glowing gals will do anything for love, and they do, only to find themselves not always walking down the aisle after passion diminishes and the light of day appears for the men they give themselves to. Since Hollywood continues to glamorize sex, without even mentioning the responsibilities connected with it, is it any wonder this same old line still keeps working in our time.

Young ladies, you are a masterpiece in the making. Search for your gifts, your talents and challenge yourself by setting the bar high. If you have a child, or children already, then rise up to make sure they receive everything they will need in order to succeed in life. Put a halt to one generation after another failing and believe God has a wonderful plan for you.

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