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S.D. County Authorizes $5.5 Million Swine Flu Vaccination Program

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Above: KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge explains the flu vaccine and how County Health Department officials are going to work with school districts to vaccinate children at school.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to authorize a $5.5 million H1N1 virus vaccination program proposed by the county Health and Human Services Agency.

Marisa Grunder, 27 of Wilton, Iowa, is given a shot during trials of an H1N1 vaccine at the University of Iowa Health Center on August 11, 2009 in Iowa City, Iowa.
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Above: Marisa Grunder, 27 of Wilton, Iowa, is given a shot during trials of an H1N1 vaccine at the University of Iowa Health Center on August 11, 2009 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Through Monday, 320 people have been hospitalized in San Diego County due to the swine flu, and 23 of the them have died, the county's public health officer told the board.

Dr. Wilma Wooten said H1N1 infections maintained a steady rate through the summer, but she expects a spike when the seasonal flu begins to strike next month.

"It's too late for containment -- the virus has spread through the county," Wooten said.

More than 700 health providers and organizations in San Diego County have ordered the vaccine, including retail pharmacies and large employers, she said. Many school districts are also becoming involved in swine flu vaccination efforts.

Priorities for vaccination are pregnant women, people who have regular contact with infants under 6 months old, health care and emergency medical workers, youths up to age 24, and adults with existing medical conditions, Wooten said.

The H1N1 virus has disproportionately hit the younger population, she said.

There will be enough vaccine for people who want to be inoculated, she said.

Supervisor Ron Roberts decried a lack of urgency among the public.

"There's awareness that there's a new type of flu bug, but there's still a casual attitude," Roberts said. "We need to do everything we can to drive home this message. If we do, we will limit the number of flu deaths. If we don't, it could be the worst flu year ever."

He estimated the $5.5 million price tag is probably half of the ultimate cost, if the county has to take over once private vaccinations run out.

The first 28,000 doses of a nasal spray vaccine have arrived or are on the way to San Diego County, with 410,900 doses of the nasal or injectable versions by the end of the month, according to the HHSA.

Wooten said the doses are being sent directly to providers. She said public health clinics will expand the hours in which swine flu vaccines are available.

In other board news, the supervisors unanimously approved a plan to privatize case management of its welfare-to-work program and a state childcare program, which will reduce the county workforce by 198 people and save $6.8 million.

The welfare-to-work program is already run by private agencies in four of the county's six regions.

Supervisor Greg Cox said the board was "obligated" to take the step if the money could be better used to serve the public in other ways.

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