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Placer County cuts through distrust to deliver H1N1 flu shots

Also: Answers to three key H1N1 questions
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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People were rolling up to roll up their sleeves for flu shots in an Auburn parking lot this week. And while clinics for vaccinations that will help stave off three strains of influenza other than the H1N1virus are proving more popular than ever, health officials are still concerned. Robert Long, who manages Placer County clinics like last Thursday’s drive-up flu event at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, watched ruefully as a couple drove away. “She was vaccinated,” Long said. “He said he doesn’t trust the government.” Breaking through that barrier of distrust and uneasiness over the H1N1 vaccine and flu shots in general is part of the yearly flu season for health officials. Long said he doesn’t like shots but is getting both the general flu vaccine now available and the H1N1 vaccination that should be arriving for the general population mid-month. And everyone he knows at the county clinics is doing the same, he said. Long said he doesn’t understand the distrust, given that the Centers for Disease Control has deemed the vaccines safe and that any of the bad stories floating around out there are unproven and anecdotal Foresthill’s Floyd Meahan is a believer in flu vaccinations. At 81, he and his wife, Juanita have been getting them for years. He’s heard the stories about contracting the flu from getting a vaccination and has never bought into it. The Centers for Disease Control says you cannot get flu from a flu shot because viruses in the vaccine are killed. Minor side effects that could occur include swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever, aches and nausea. But even Meahan was potentially the victim of misinformation that health officials are trying to fend off. Meahan said he thought Thursday’s shot should be enough – that he won’t need to return for another vaccination to prevent H1N1. “My feeling is the first shot should take care of everything,” Meahan said. Long said that while any vaccination could possibly help make flu symptoms milder, people need to take both shots to be completely protected. The general procedure is to give one vaccination on one arm and then switch arms for the other. Retired carpenter Percy Vance, 81, of Loomis, said he’s been getting flu shots for a decade and they’ve always helped. “That was the end of the flu,” he said. With flu concerns mounting because of the H1N1 strain, virus vaccination events with Placer have seen a 20 percent increase this year over last, Meahan said. And on Thursday, 10 cars were already in line a half-hour before the outdoor clinic opened. The county is planning as many as six clinics a month during November and December and there will be school site inoculations as well. -------------------------------- Three key H1N1 questions Q:How will the H1N1 influenza vaccines be monitored for safety? A: The Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration monitor vaccines licensed for use in the U.S. The two primary systems they’ll use will be a voluntary reporting system with health care providers and a datalink with eight large managed-care organizations that collects information on nine million people. Q: Does the H1N1 flu shot have mercury in it? A: Yes. Some will contain thimerosal, a mercury preservative in vaccine that comes in multi-dose vials. But there is no evidence that thimerosal in the vaccine is harmful and the CDC advises pregnant women to get flu shots either with or without thimerosal. It will have both available. Q: What is the best source of information for H1N1 vaccine safety? A: In addition to talking openly with healthcare providers, the Center for Disease Control encourages people to stay informed by checking for up-to-date news and information at cdc.gov/H1N1flu and flu.gov. – Centers for Disease Control information