NH health officials urge everyone to get flu shots
State-ordered shipments of flu vaccine are expected to arrive in New Hampshire this month, and health officials are recommending that nearly everyone get vaccinated this year.
The vaccine is an all-in-one inoculation that promises protection against the swine flu strain that sparked last year’s pandemic, plus two other kinds of influenza.
Last year, the state targeted the swine flu vaccine to the most at-risk populations for several months before making it available to everyone. But this year, it is recommending the vaccine for virtually everyone except babies younger than 6 months and people with severe egg allergies when it becomes available.
“Everyone is in line now,” state epidemiologist Jodie Dionne-Odom said Thursday. “If you’re over 6 months you should get the vaccine, unless there are contraindications.”
The state oversees ordering vaccines for children through its childhood immunization program, and those shipments are expected to go out to health care providers by the end of the month. Providers order on their own for adults.
Most people will need only one shot, but children under 9 getting their first-ever flu vaccine or who had only one swine flu shot last year will need two, a month apart, to prime their immune systems. There also is a nasal mist version of the vaccine for people ages 2 to 49.
Dionne-Odom said people shouldn’t wait until flu starts circulation to get vaccinated given that the vaccine takes two weeks to become fully effective, and last year’s flu season peaked in October.
The state doesn’t plan to hold public vaccination clinics this year, though it is working on a pilot program to vaccinate children in schools, Dionne-Odom said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, New Hampshire was well above the national average in vaccinating children last season, with a rate of 46 percent compared with 37 percent for the country as a whole. It was about average in vaccinating its total population.
After seeing nine deaths related to swine flu, the state hasn’t had a positive flu test since April, Dionne-Odom said.