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High-priority groups lead the line

Jackson County's first 1,800 doses of vaccine for the H1N1 influenza virus will be administered primarily to children and health care providers.

Viki Brown, the county's director of public health services, said the county's allotment of vaccine was distributed among health care providers such as pediatricians and safety-net clinics including La Clinica and Community Health Center.

The vaccine will be available for those in the top-priority groups, such as health care providers, people age 6 months to 24 years, and those with weakened immune systems.

Dr. Maria Cordeiro went to the county's immunization clinic Thursday to get her vaccine. Cordeiro, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said she wanted to stay healthy to care for her patients.

A nurse administered the inhalable vaccine in two doses, one for each nostril.

"It's sweet," Cordeiro said, noting the taste of the vaccine at the back of her mouth. "It's like nectar. I feel like a hummingbird."

Cordeiro's medical assistant, Dimitra Snow, also received the vaccine.

"We have to protect our patients and ourselves," said Snow, who's studying to be a nurse. "One of our co-workers is pregnant, and I wouldn't want to put her in danger."

Cordeiro said it's important for people to know the guidelines for who should receive the vaccine and when it should be administered. She noted, for example, that people who have a temporary respiratory illness should postpone immunization until they're well. Also, pregnant women are one of the priority groups for H1N1 immunization, but the inhalable vaccine has not been approved for use in pregnant women, so they'll have to wait for the injectable form to arrive.

That should happen locally sometime next week. Brown said the county's next allocation of H1N1 vaccine will include about 1,100 doses in injectable form and 1,600 doses of the inhalable type.

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be distributed to a network of 70-some sites, including pharmacies, family practice physicians, and school-based clinics. Those sites will be posted soon on the county's Web site, www.jacksoncounty.org.

Brown couldn't say exactly when the next allotment of vaccine would arrive, but she was hoping for delivery early next week.

Brown said all the talk about influenza, both seasonal and H1N1, has apparently convinced more people to seek immunization. The county already has run out of seasonal flu vaccine, and won't have more until November.

"There's a lot more concern for children," Brown said, "and there are a lot more people coming in. We're seeing whole families with young children all the way through high school. It's a different picture for seasonal flu than we've seen in the past."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.

Dr. Maria Cordeiro receives the H1N1 influenza vaccine Thursday at the Jackson County Health and Human Services office in Medford. Mail Tribune photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch