Health Department offers free H1N1 vaccines

Erin Wood

The Tazewell County Health Department has received its first shipment of H1N1 vaccines, and immunizations will be available free to the public beginning Thursday.

Sara Sparkman, community relations manager at the Tazewell County Health Department, said people considered a “priority” according to the Center for Disease Control should be the first to get the vaccine.

“Looking at the priority groups, we’re estimating that 40,000 people in Tazewell County need the H1N1 vaccine,” Sparkman said. “But we have been assured that there will eventually be enough for anybody who wants it.”

The CDC priority groups are pregnant women; children and young adults 6 months to 24 years old; adults ages 25 to 64 years old with health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma or anyone with lowered immunity; household members and caregivers of children younger than 6 months old; and health care workers and emergency medical service providers with direct patient contact.

Sparkman said the health department’s staff has been split into two teams — those working solely working on the H1N1 campaign and those who continue to provide the health department’s other  basic services.

“It’s been quite an undertaking,” Sparkman said. “We’ve pretty much changed our schedules because we are now open Saturdays. Some staff members are working 10-hour days and weekends. It’s required a shift in our thinking.”

Because of the focus on the H1N1 campaign, the health department has temporarily suspended some other services.

Adult immunizations, sexually transmitted disease testing and tuberculosis skin tests will not be provided, likely until the end of the year, Sparkman said.

Previously scheduled childhood immunization clinics have also been canceled, but appointments can still be made.

Sparkman said the health department will offer H1N1 vaccines at least until the end of the year.

Clinics will be scheduled and announced based on the quantity of vaccines the health department receives, and clinics may be postponed or canceled depending on vaccine shipment.

“We’re announcing them in waves to make sure we have enough vaccines,” Sparkman said. “We’re hoping they keep coming in.”

Sparkman said the health department has enough vaccines at least for the five clinics that will be offered during the next two weeks.

The schedule is 3:30 to 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Delavan School, 907 Locust St. in Delavan; 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Tazewell County Health Department, 21306 Illinois Route 9 in Tremont; 3:30 to 7:45 p.m. Monday at LaSalle School, 300 N. Highland in Creve Coeur; 3:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at Lincoln School, 801 Springfield Road in East Peoria; and 8:30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Tazewell County Health Department.

Schools throughout Tazewell County are partnering with the Tazewell County Health Department to host H1N1 clinics.  Information about those clinics will be distributed by the schools, and only school children, their families and staff in the priority groups are recommended to attend those clinics.

The only confirmed case of H1N1 in Tazewell County was reported June 30, but Sparkman said it is important people protect themselves during the second wave of the virus.

“We’re encouraging people to protect themselves and their families,” Sparkman said. “H1N1 is the influenza in the area right now. But you will not experience illness, and you will build up immunity if you get the vaccine.”