Many Snohomish County kids haven’t had second dose against swine flu

  • Tue Feb 2nd, 2010 10:35pm
  • News

By Sharon Salyer, Herald Writer

EVERETT — Last fall, thousands of people stood in line — sometimes for hours — to get their kids immunized against swine flu.

At the time, doctors said that children 9 and under would need to get a booster shot to provide full protection.

Now’s the time. But many children still haven’t gotten their boosters.

Statewide, less than one-quarter of vaccinated kids under age 5 have received the second dose, according to a survey of physicians by the state Department of Health.

A check by The Everett Clinic found less than half of vaccinated children younger than 9 had received a second dose.

Studies on the swine flu or H1N1 vaccine show that it takes three to four weeks after the second dose before kids under 10 are fully protected, said Dr. Yuan Po-Tu, medical director of walk-in clinics for The Everett Clinic. The organization, which has clinics throughout Snohomish County, has administered nearly 29,000 doses of the adult and pediatric vaccine.

While 3,703 children 9 or younger received the first dose, only 1,521 — less than half — have received the second dose.

“The problem physicians are facing is everybody thinks, ‘Well, flu season is over, so why does my kid need a second dose?’ ” Tu said.

Swine flu is different from seasonal flu, with the outbreak beginning last year in April, usually the end of flu season, continuing into the summer and beginning with a second wave of infection in the fall.

State health officials have said that a third wave of infection could begin again in the spring, which is why they’re joining local physicians in urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

Children as young as 6 months can be immunized. Getting children vaccinated not only protects them, it builds a wall of protection to help stem influenza viruses from spreading rapidly through communities, Tu said.

In addition, swine flu is predicted to be the dominant strain of flu that will circulate next year, he said. “So even if the flu doesn’t come back this spring, by getting two doses, you’re setting them up for protecting them next fall.”

Some 270,000 doses of swine flu vaccine have been distributed in Snohomish County. “There’s plenty of vaccine right now,” Tu said.

A survey of physicians by the state Department of Health, completed on Jan. 23, showed that of the 181,000 children 4 and younger who received the first dose, only 41,000 had received a second dose.

“People are responding, but we’d like to see that pace increase,” said Donn Moyer, Department of Health spokesman.

Parents are aware of the need to get kids vaccinated at the height of influenza breakouts, he said. “When things normalized, you get past the holidays, people’s attention drops.”

Influenza is still circulating, though at dramatically lower levels than in the fall. And there’s no knowing when it might return, Moyer said.

“There’s no point in taking a chance when you could get full protection with that second dose,” Moyer said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.