Starting Monday, the H1N1 influenza vaccine no longer will be off-limits to the general public.
The vaccine had been restricted to priority groups while it was in short supply, but more vaccine is becoming available every week, said Dr. Mel Kohn, director of Oregon's public health department.
"We've received a substantial amount of vaccine and more is flowing into Oregon at a brisk pace, so it makes sense to open (immunization) to all," Kohn said during a Friday press conference in Portland.
Jackson County public health officials were making arrangements to open public immunization clinics next week and make vaccine available to additional sites, said Viki Brown, director of public health services.
Brown said immunization clinics have been scheduled for 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday at the county public health offices at 1005 E. Main St., Medford. Walmart pharmacies also will have the vaccine starting next week, she said.
Brown said the vaccine will be administered free of charge at the county clinic. Private providers may charge a fee for administering the vaccine, she said.
Kohn said it's important for people to get immunized despite the current lull in the number of flu cases because it's possible another wave of illness could occur during the winter or early spring.
"H1N1 is the gift nobody wants to get this season," he said. "The best way to make sure you don't get it is to get vaccinated."
Kohn said the health division's Web site, www.flu.oregon.gov, includes a "flu vaccine locator" feature that will help people find vaccine by typing in their ZIP code.
Although vaccine supplies are expanding, there may not be enough available next week to immediately serve everyone who wants to be immunized.
"We're not swimming in vaccine yet," said Kathleen O'Leary, Washington County public health director, who answered questions along with Kohn during the press briefing. "We're asking people to be patient."
O'Leary said county public health officials would be distributing vaccine to as many outlets as possible to make immunization easy and convenient.
"Through December and into January we will have enough vaccine," she said.
Kohn and O'Leary encouraged Oregonians to check the flu vaccine locator on Oregon flu Web site (www.flu.oregon.gov) to find out where vaccine will be available in the coming weeks in their area. Information on flu vaccine availability also is available on the Jackson County Web site: www.jacksoncounty.org.
As of Friday Oregon expected to have received 891,716 doses of H1N1 vaccine, including 126,208 doses during the past week, according to DHS data.
Kohn said the national immunization program this year marks a new level of success in getting people vaccinated. About 100 million doses of season flu vaccine have been administered so far, and 85 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, for a total of 185 million vaccinations.
He said public health officials have delivered about 100 million doses in their previous best efforts, "and we patted ourselves on the back and thought we'd done a really good job.
"This has been an unprecedented effort by public health and all of our partners," he said.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.