H1N1 flu vaccine available today

Vaccinations against H1N1 flu will be offered today at the Westport/Weston Health Department on Bayberry Lane between 3 and 6 p.m., Mark Cooper, head of the Westport/Weston Health District told the Westport News during an interview Monday.

Monica Wheeler, community health director of the health district, said the vaccinations will be in the form of the nasal spray and via needle inoculations.

As many as 300 doses are expected to be on hand.

Vaccinations are expected to be administered on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Wheeler. She advises potential subjects to come early. That is because vaccine supplies are supposed to top off around 300 doses.

Cooper, meanwhile, reminded residents that persons seeking vaccinations must fit one of the following groups to be eligible to receive vaccinations against H1N1 flu virus.

"¢ Pregnant women may get the injection only.

"¢ All children ages 6 months to 18 years with high-risk medical conditions may receive the injection only.

"¢ Children 2 years to 4 years with no high-risk medical conditions may receive vaccinations via either the nasal spray or injection form.

"¢ 5 years to 18 years with no high risk medical conditions may receive the nasal spray only.

"¢ 2 years to 18 years with high risk medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes may receive the injection vaccine only.

Anyone not listed above and living with or caring for an infant under 6 months may be vaccinated according to the following guidelines:

"¢ If you have underlying medical conditions, you may receive the injection only.

"¢ If you are age 50 or over, you may receive the injection only.

"¢ If you have no high-risk medical conditions and are under 50, you may receive the nasal spray or injections.

Health Director Mark Cooper said in a release: "The Westport/Weston Health District is operating under State of Connecticut Department of Public Health Directives and had no discretion regarding priority groups in setting up the free H1N1 flu vaccination clinic Thursday. If you are not in one of the above groups, you may continue to check our Web site www.wwhd.org/H1N1.htm for further developments."

As more vaccine becomes available, the health district expects to expand eligibility, Cooper noted during the interview. He added, "Eventually, everyone who wants it will be offered vaccine."

Wheeler told the Westport News since darkness will be prevalent toward the end of the free vaccination clinic today, volunteers will be on-hand to see that those vaccinated will be escorted safely into and out of the clinic.

The helpers will be from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Medical Reserve Volunteer Corps that includes doctors and nurses, as well as trained civilians.

Both Wheeler and Cooper anticipate there is a possibility that many more people will show up than the health district has doses of vaccine for, and both said that the health district will do the best it can and advised folks to be patient.

Cooper recommended patience instead of panic. "Eventually there will be enough vaccine for all who desire to be vaccinated -- if not Thursday, later," he said.