A shortage of the preservative-free H1N1 vaccine has prompted Missouri's public health officials to allow pregnant women and parents of children less than 3 years old to choose whether or not to receive the H1N1 vaccine containing a mercury-based preservative.
Health officials say the shortage of the preservative-free vaccine was preventing pregnant women and young children from receiving the vaccine to aid in limiting the spread of H1N1.
Oct. 22, Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services decided to temporarily set aside a statute prohibiting pregnant women and young children from getting the vaccine with the preservative.
"The statute also allows the health director to set aside the ban in certain circumstances, including a pandemic or a shortage of vaccine," according to MDHSS. "The waiver will remain in effect until the shortage no longer exists."
"The H1N1 flu is now widespread throughout Missouri," Donnelly said. "We know that pregnant women and young children are the most susceptible to this illness. But delays in vaccine production have created a situation where the most vulnerable people were left without vaccine protection."
Health officials urge parents of young children and pregnant women to check with their physician to find out if the vaccine with the preservative is reasonably safe for them to take.
Shelia Russell with the Oregon County Health Department said there has been a decreased supply of the injectable form of the vaccine. "We received zero (of the injectable form) in our last supply," Russell said.
However, Russell said the health department does have several doses of the flu mist, and the health department has been successful in administering it.
As soon as the health department receives more doses of the injectable form of the vaccine, Russell said, their priority will be vaccinating children under 2 years old and parents of those in the high risk category, including pregnant women.
Since the Oregon County Health Department received its first shipment of the vaccine on Oct. 15, the department has administered about 348 doses of the vaccine.
The vaccine is available at both the Alton and Thayer offices during their normal operating hours. No appointment is necessary. Alton's offices hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thayer's office hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both offices are closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.
Russell said she has heard from health officials that they are expecting a second wave of the H1N1 flu to hit in November. She said health officials have noticed similarities between this plague and the plague of 1918 in which there were several waves of the flu.
"I'm hoping that doesn't happen," Russell said.