Focus shifts to treatment in H1N1 response

November 13, 2009

LIMA — With little of the county population vaccinated against H1N1 flu, health officials want to move from preventing the virus to treating it.

The slow trickle of vaccine requires a shift in focus, Allen County Health Board officials acknowledged Friday during their regular meeting.

Board member Dr. Wilfred Ellis said with only 5 percent of the county’s population vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, the focus has to change.

“In that regard, we have to have an alternative and the alternative is be prepared for treatment,” Ellis said. “The vaccination program simply will not be successful at this point to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The 5 percent is well short of the 25 to 50 percent goal, Ellis said. State health officials have also said that future shipments of the vaccine will be in smaller quantities than previous shipments further compounding the situation.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Alvin Jackson said Friday he hopes to improve vaccine shipment numbers in the next two weeks.

Jackson, touring the county department later in the day, said shipments go directly to counties from the federal government in proportion to population.

“We had hoped for more vaccine by now. I think at the end of the road, there will be enough vaccine for everyone,” Jackson said. “We’re hoping in the next two weeks to vaccinate everyone in priority groups.”

Health Commissioner David Rosebrock said the diminished supply is unwelcome news given plans the health department had for increasing the vaccination program.

“We’ve been trying to look at getting into the schools especially and doing other bigger numbers in terms of clinics. It looks like we’re going to be stymied again for at least a couple more weeks,” Rosebrock said. “We’re getting into holidays, school vacations, probably bad weather one of these days. We are frustrated in that regard. I think Dr. Ellis’ suggestions are well-founded.”

Ellis and Becky Dershem, director of nursing for the health department, said the county has a stockpile of antiviral medications that have largely proven successful in treating H1N1.

“What we’re doing is watching our stockpiles and to make sure that as we have needs we can go from the stockpile to the treatment,” Ellis said. “As the stockpile diminishes make certain we keep that at a certain level.”

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Reporter Heather Rutz contributed to this story.