December 16 2009When supplies are in stock, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) now is making H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine available for all of its patients. Previously, SEARHC clinics had very limited supplies of the vaccine and the vaccine only was available to patients who were on priority lists established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for times of limited vaccine availability. The Alaska Division of Public Health relaxed those restrictions statewide on Dec. 1, but most SEARHC clinics still had very limited supplies until earlier this week. Now that SEARHC has received additional supplies, we are able to offer the vaccine to all patients who want it, when we have it available. SEARHC patients who want the H1N1 flu vaccine should schedule a flu shot appointment with their local clinic, or check to see if it is holding a shot clinic. Also, many community emergency preparedness groups are scheduling community-wide flu shot clinics at local fire stations or other community buildings. Earlier this week, the CDC announced a voluntary recall of a specific type of pediatric H1N1 flu vaccine for young children ages 6-35 months. This vaccine recall is not safety-related, only a precaution because a few batches of the pre-filled syringes lost some potency in their active ingredient during storage to a level just below the accepted range. According to the CDC, these batches still are safe and parents don’t need to take any action if their child received one of these doses. The young children who received vaccines from the affected batches do not need to be revaccinated, so long as all children age 10 and younger received the recommended two doses. Only a few of these affected batches reached SEARHC, and very few of the pre-filled syringes have been used. Our pharmacists and nurses have removed all remaining stock of this type of pediatric flu vaccine so it is out of circulation. SEARHC continues to have very limited supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine, so we still are targeting the CDC priority lists for those people with a higher risk for seasonal flu complications. The seasonal flu priority group list and other flu information can be found on the SEARHC flu page online at www.searhc.org/flu/. You can call your local clinic for more information, or you can call the SEARHC flu hotline at 1-877-966-8549 (toll-free in Alaska) for a recorded message about flu vaccine availability. Additional information on the flu can be found online at www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov (state site), or at www.flu.gov or www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ (national sites).