Health Agency Reports Flu Vaccine Surplus
Department continues with walk-in vaccinations.
A year after H1N1 panic gripped the nation, the Westfield Regional Health Department reports it has a surplus of flu vaccine.
Department chief nurse Laura O'Scanlon briefed the Westfield Board of Health this week that the lack of national news over the flu has decreased the desire of residents to be vaccinated this year. Last year's the department reported a shortage of seasonal flu vaccine, as residents sought ways to protect themselves from H1N1, a new strain of the flu not included in the seasonal vaccine.
This year's vaccine includes H1N1.
In the fall of 2009, activity at flu clinics sponsored by the Westfield health department, which serves eight communities in Union County rose. A seasonal flu clinic in Garwood ran out of vaccinations when a large crowd showed up and snaked around the building.
The department's first H1N1 vaccination clinic at Westfield High School, drew a large crowd that required crowd control barriers and police clad in riot gear.
In June 2009, the health department had to close Lincoln School in Westfield for several days after a rise of cases of a flu like illness. The closure, which led to rumors of federal clean-up crews at the school, did not include any H1N1 cases.
O'Scanlon told health board members that the department is preparing for an influx of vaccine seekers.
"This is the time of year we see some activity," O'Scanlon said regarding flu cases.
O'Scanlon said that the town has been conducting a series of walk-in vaccinations at their office. This includes a rise in pre-schoolers seeking vaccinations. She attributes this to the requirements from pre-schools that students receive a flu vaccination in order to be in class.
Board of Health President Lawrence Budnick said that the flu vaccine surplus is common around the state. A professor at UMDNJ, Budnick said that the state health department has not been providing as much information to local public health agencies regarding the flu, a sign of a decrease in attention from last year.
Budnick said that the state health department has also teamed with Walgreens to provide vouchers for local income individuals to receive flu shots. He said he has seen this lead to a decrease in flu vaccine activity at local health departments in Union and Essex Counties.