Prioritize flu shots, county implores

By SHARON SALYER

Herald Writer

While the Snohomish Health District has called for those most likely to become seriously ill from flu to have priority for flu shots, outside of its own clinics there’s no practical way to make sure that happens.

"We have no control on how they use their vaccine," Dr. M. Ward Hinds, head of the countywide health agency, said of how other organizations use their allotments of flu vaccine.

Those most at-risk of developing serious complications from the flu include anyone who is: over the age of 65, has chronic heart and lung conditions, has immune system problems, is diabetic or has long-term kidney disease.

The shot is recommended for anyone age 50 and older and anyone else who would like to avoid the bug or not miss work.

Problems with vaccine production have meant that many health care organizations, both here and nationally, are getting vaccine both far later than usual and often in staggered shipments.

Stevens Hospital in Edmonds is just one example. The organization, which provides the vaccine to the public at flu shot clinics, said it expects to get part of its vaccine allotment this month, some in November and the rest in December.

For that reason, it has still not set its schedule for the flu shot clinics.

Visiting Nurses Service of the Northwest, which provides the shots at grocery and drug stores as well as at senior centers in Snohomish County, is kicking off its flu shot clinics about a month later than usual. The shots are available to anyone who wants them.

The Snohomish Health District, which is receiving staggered shipments, will have the shots available at its clinics in Everett and Lynnwood.

"People who come to our clinics before December will be asked if they’re not in a high-risk category to come back in December when we have our full order," Hinds said.

The Everett Clinic was one of few area organizations that reported earlier this month it had its full shipment of 17,000 doses.

"In general, the reasonable statement is that persons who are not at unusual risk of complications might consider postponing their flu shots until December to allow people at high risk to get theirs earlier," Hinds said.

If a clinic has received its full order of vaccine and feels it can cover all of its high-risk patients as well as those who would like to have it, "it might not be an issue," Hinds said.

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