H1N1 vaccinations sooner rather than later

October 5, 2009 8:25:37 PM PDT
The effort to vaccinate people against H1N1 is about to get underway as research indicates there is no time to waste.

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Stanford University researchers say there is a good reason why the H1N1 vaccination campaign should start sooner than later.

"If you vaccinated broadly in October, compared to November, you'd save an extra, say, 600 lives and save maybe $150 million, so vaccinating early saves more lives and would save money, so we think that's a very important message," Dr. Douglas Owens said.

Owens is one of the authors of a Stanford study in which he and his colleagues studied data from New York City's large-scale vaccination program for swine flu in 1976.

Owens points out treating a patient for flu for two weeks in the hospital can run over $50,000. Vaccinations would save money and home care would address a growing concern that a swine flu pandemic would over-tax hospitals.

"There is a potential that the hospitals will run out of beds and so we want to make sure we educate people how to take care of their sick loved ones at home and certainly to use appropriately the emergency departments," Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib said.

The question now is how soon can vaccination clinics begin?

State officials told Fenstersheib that the spray vaccine in on the way to California. It will take longer for the injectable vaccine.

"The injectable vaccine we know will be coming this month, we just don't have a date yet, so we're all waiting for the date," Fenstersheib said.

The Santa Clara Valley chapter of the American Red Cross has mobilized 2,000 volunteers to help staff the clinics.

"We're going to go tomorrow, we're going to go next week; we're Red Cross, so we're able to go at a moment's notice," spokesperson Cynthia Shaw said.

The Red Cross will be doing more than marshalling volunteers. It also will be assembling small take-home kits for high-risk, low-income families that will include items such as face masks and hand sanitizer to keep the flu at bay.

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