Flu clinics fall short

  • 01/24/2010: B3:

    PC: Josh Hopkins sits calmly as his son Josh, 18 mos., checks the situation out, Saturday Jan. 23, 2010 during an H1N1 flu clinic at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

An early assessment of the countywide "Flu Shot Saturday" clinics held at nine sites last weekend shows a 75 percent drop from the number of people who were vaccinated last year, said Sonoma County's top public health official.

"The fact that we're seeing lower numbers in these clinics, we want to reinforce with people how important it is to get immunized," said Sonoma County Public Health Officer Mary Maddux-Gonzalez.

The vaccination day was organized by a countywide flu task force that includes representatives from local hospitals, community clinics, the county health department and Empire College.

The sites included the Alexander Valley Regional Medical Center in Cloverdale, Healdsburg District Hospital, the Berger Center in Oakmont, the Petaluma Health Center, Empire College and Alliance Medical Center in Windsor.

Maddux-Gonzalez said flu-related illness in the county remains low, as in most of the country. But she warned that this year's flu contains multiple virus strains, giving it a much broader reach than last year's swine flu.

"We want everybody over six months of age to get vaccinated," she said. "And we're particularly concerned about seniors because of their higher risk of complications from the flu."

She speculated that people who received the H1N1 vaccination didn't think they needed a new flu shot this year. She also noted that this year's vaccine is widely available at pharmacies, doctors' offices and medical centers.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, is asking older adults to get vaccinated against the flu strains that are likely to spare no age group this. Last year, seniors over 65 were immune, for the most part, to the H1N1 virus.

But the CDC says the year-long reprieve is likely over.

"Last year was an anomaly all the way around," said CDC spokesman Jeff Dimond. "Looks like this year, there's a little bit of flu for everyone."

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