California health officials roll out H1N1 vaccine

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Isiah Harris receives an H1N1 influenza vaccine at Rush University Medical Center October 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. Rush is one of many hospitals and clinics that have started to distribute the vaccinations against the H1N1 swine flu virus in the United States this week.

The H1N1 “swine flu” vaccine is available now in Los Angeles and more is on the way. County public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding is distributing 92,000 doses now of the FluMist nasal spray. By the end of the month, the county will have 1.3-million doses in nasal spray and flu shot form, Fielding says.

Statewide, the H1N1 virus has killed 206 Californians since its initial outbreak last April. Another 2,700 people have been hospitalized for H1N1 symptoms in California, says Dr. Mark Horton of the state Department of Public Health.

In a news conference in Sacramento, Horton described the disease as "widespread."

He said public health officials are seeing an "uptick" in the number of doctor visits by patients with influenza.

"We fully expect there will be more hospitalization and deaths," said Horton.

Horton also said Californians can do a lot to protect themselves, starting with H1N1 vaccinations. This week, the state Department of Public Health will begin doling out 400,000 H1N1 nasal spray vaccines.

The state will distribute doses to hospitals, private practice physicians, large chain pharmacies, schools and free clinics. Providers will administer the vaccine first to people between the ages of 2 and 18. H1N1 strikes younger people harder than seasonal flu.

Also at the top of the vaccine priority list is anyone that cares for children younger than six months. Those children can't get flu vaccinations.

Horton said the federal government is sending weekly allotments of H1N1 vaccine through the early part of next year. He expects the number of doses will exceed half the state's population.

Once California receives enough vaccines to cover the initial target group, Horton said the state will distribute them to two other priority groups: pregnant women and health care workers.

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