By Anna Jauhola
Kittson Healthcare in Hallock is limiting its influenza vaccine distribution to high-risk individuals until November.
The facility was planning several flu shot clinics last week in the county, that is until they received word that the additional supply wouldn’t arrive until Friday, Oct. 18.
“We are suspending public clinics until November,” said Cindy Urbaniak, county director of public health. “The public needn’t be nervous. It’s coming, but it’s slower than anticipated.”
A few years ago, the clinic faced a similar problem when pharmaceutical companies had a manufacturing problem when creating the influenza vaccine. But this year, manufacturing is not the issue nor is there a shortage of the vaccine, Urbaniak said.
“Weather could be causing delays with some, but the CDC is quick to tell us if there’s an issue,” she said.
As they have a limited amount on hand, officials at Kittson Healthcare made the decision Wednesday, Oct. 16 to hold it for high-risk individuals, including: those with heart disease, a history of stroke, cancer, respiratory issues, diabetes, neurological disease; pregnant women; and children under the age of 5.
The clinic received a shipment of vaccine on Friday, Oct. 18, but that was prioritized for nursing home residents who have not been vaccinated yet, Urbaniak said.
The clinic had enough vaccine doses available for the Oct. 9 walk-in flu shot clinic in Hallock and vaccinated 200 people, she said.
“The CDC is predicting a more harsh flu season this year,” Urbaniak said. “They haven’t said why, but there’s speculation it will be harder.”
She said the Hallock and Karlstad clinics generally don’t see influenza cases until January or February each year. So many healthy people likely will be all right to get the vaccine in November as it only takes two weeks to create adequate immunity. And, the vaccine’s protection decreases after four or five months, so getting vaccinated in November and December protects people longer.
In the meantime, the public’s best defense in preventing the spread of illness is hand washing, sanitizing surfaces, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and staying home if you are ill.
“The influenza virus spreads through the air, so maintain a 3-foot distance from anyone who is sick,” Urbaniak said. “Wash your hands carefully anytime you touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Cold viruses can live on a surface for days. Just be conscious.”
Urbaniak also warns the norovirus, or stomach flu, will start spreading this time of year. She said the virus comes on fast and is highly infectious.
Kittson Healthcare will let the public know when vaccine arrives through ads in local newspapers and on the facility’s Facebook page. You can also call the clinics to check.
By Anna Jauhola