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Another Flu Season, But No Pandemic

— A year ago, almost to the day, I went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center on Skyline Drive to watch the San Diego County Health Department kick off its seasonal flu vaccinations. I did the same thing today. And what a difference a year makes.

Priscilla Bramlette (Right), with the San Diego Black Nurses Association, prepares flu vaccine doses Friday morning at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in San Diego.
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Above: Priscilla Bramlette (Right), with the San Diego Black Nurses Association, prepares flu vaccine doses Friday morning at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in San Diego.

Today, flu doctors from the health department and from UCSD told us there was no shortage of flu vaccine and they were encouraging everyone to go get their shots.

But last year was the year of the swine flu scare. Vaccine companies were hustling to produce both a seasonal flu vaccine and a vaccine for the novel H1N1 Virus, a.k.a. "swine flu." Last year the makeshift clinic at the MLK Recreation Center had plenty of seasonal flu vaccine but nothing for swine flu.

San Diego clinics wouldn't get any swine flu vaccine until the following month. Even then, vaccine doses trickled in so slowly that the health department set up priority groups, for which their meager vaccines supplies would be reserved.

Today there are still high-risk groups that are put in greater danger by the flu.... pregnant women, old folks, children under five and people with chronic health problems. But County Health Officer Wilma Wooten said she's no long talking about "priority groups."

"Priority groups are used when there's a limited volume of vaccinations. So these are the groups you're going to be disseminating the vaccine to," she said. "But this year everyone, six months and older, is recommended to get a flu shot."

They've got lots of medicine this year, people. So come on in!

Last year, the swine flu pandemic killed 57 people in San Diego county. Wooten said that was an all-time record for flu seasons in San Diego. And more than 900 people were hospitalized in connection with swine flu. But Wooten said the World Health Organization told us, last month, that the pandemic is over.

Swine flu didn't go away. It has, however, been reduced to being one of three viruses contained in this year's seasonal flu vaccine. So if you want a swine flu vaccination just go to the doctor and get your seasonal flu shot. And cover your mouth when you cough.

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