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County declares swine flu emergency, offers vaccinations to at-risk uninsured

on November 11, 2009

Alameda County officials have declared a state of emergency to prevent the further spread of the H1N1 influenza virus. This declaration will allow for distribution of free vaccine to uninsured, high-risk residents at select locations in the county.

According to Amy De Reyes, Health Policy Analyst for Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, the declaration did not result from reported cases of the H1N1 “swine flu” influenza reaching a threshold number, but is an attempt to expedite vaccinations for people who need them most.

“It allows us to put aside procedural things and say, ‘We can do whatever we need to do to get this done,’” De Reyes said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Typically the county is required to solicit bids for services, supplies, staff and equipment needed to respond to an illness, and questions arise over who has jurisdiction over what, De Reyes said.  By declaring a state of emergency, she said, the county is able to bypass some bureaucratic red tape.

According to a press release from Carson’s office, the free vaccininations will be given to those people determined to be at the highest risk. This includes:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children between six months and four years old
  • People who live with or provide care for infants under six months old (including parents, siblings, and childcare providers)
  • Children aged 5-18 who have chronic medical conditions that put them at higher risk for flu-related complications.

The declaration was made at an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting on November 3, but had been discussed in the weeks beforehand, De Reyes said.

A flu shot at a CVS store, North Oakland.

A flu shot at a CVS store, North Oakland.

According to the press release, there have been 17 deaths and 224 hospitalizations from H1N1 in Alameda County as of October 20.

The Alameda County Public Health Department is providing no-cost vaccinations to uninsured, high-risk residents at several locations in Albany and Oakland this Saturday, November 14.  Vaccinations will be administered at deFremery Park (1651 Adeline St) and Manzanita Recreation Center (2701 22nd Ave) in Oakland and at the Albany Community Center. More vaccines will be distributed December 5 at Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center (7701 Krause Ave) and Franklin Recreation Center (1010 East 15th St), and December 12 at North Oakland’s Bushrod Recreation Center (560 59th St.) and Allendale Recreation Center (3711 Suter St.) at no cost to the high-risk population. The clinics will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., or until the vaccine supply depletes.

De Reyes said that insured residents who meet the high-risk criteria will be asked to wait at the back of the line, but that those residents who don’t fit into any of those risk categories will be turned away.

According to De Reyes, the vaccine supply available for the county’s distribution should not affect what is available to private providers. “We did extensive outreach with providers, making sure that anyone who wanted to provide the vaccine could,” she said.

De Reyes said she did not know the total number of doses available, “but what we do know that there hasn’t been enough produced to meet the demand.”

The release stated the Public Health Department will expand vaccination efforts as more doses of the vaccine become available.

De Reyes echoed the federal government’s optimism that enough of the vaccine will have been produced by January to make it widely available.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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