H1N1 vaccine available Monday
The H1N1 flu vaccine will be made available to the general public beginning Monday as supplies of the vaccine have caught up with demand in Hawai'i, state Health Director Chiyome Fukino said yesterday.
Fukino and others also urged Hawai'i residents to not become complacent about getting inoculated against the H1N1 or swine flu.
Despite news reports that the virus appears to be waning in every state but Alabama, people in Hawai'i should still be vaccinated to protect against the potentially deadly virus, said Fukino and Dr. Sarah Park, chief of the Department of Health's Disease Outbreak Control Division.
"We get many travelers coming here," Park said. "We don't breed the seasonal flu here and send it out — they bring it to us."
Park and Fukino joined with Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, University of Hawai'i-Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and Bill Gallo, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to urge everyone who wants to be inoculated against swine flu or seasonal flu to do so.
Until now, the vaccine was reserved for certain groups, such as children and young adults, people with health conditions that leave them vulnerable to flu, pregnant women, and public health and safety workers.
During a news conference at Aiona's office yesterday, Park said Hawai'i residents should not be lured into a false sense of security based on news reports that the swine flu outbreak appears to be easing in all but one state, Alabama, on the Mainland. Hawai'i's flu season historically lags behind the Mainland, Park said.
An Associated Press story yesterday said swine flu cases continue to drop and that only Alabama was reporting widespread cases last week, citing information provided by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Four states had widespread cases the previous week and the number has been dropping since late October, when nearly all states had widespread flu cases, the AP reported.
Park said China is being hit hard at the moment with spreading swine flu cases, and that some areas have experienced a "second wave" of cases.
Incoming tourists from around the globe add to the threat of swine and seasonal flu transmission in Hawai'i, Park said.
"We are in a global village here — we are not the only ones on this planet," Park said.
"This pandemic is very much alive."
Hinshaw, a microbiologist by training, made a special appeal for young adults in the 18- to 24-year-old age group to get vaccinated.
Toward that end, UH-Mānoa will hold a mass H1N1 inoculation clinic on campus on Thursday. The vaccine will be available at no cost to UH students, Hinshaw said.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Aiona issued a proclamation yesterday declaring Jan. 10-16 "Influenza Vaccination Week in Hawai'i."