Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Lentz is getting her swine flu vaccine in Charlotte in Eaton County. She says, "I have a baby brother, so it's a big risk to not have the vaccine and be around a small child."
She has no underlying health condition and is part of the new group that many counties that are now making the swine flu vaccines available to. In Barry and Eaton Counties, that's now anyone 6 months of age through 24-years old. Lentz says, "It was nice to have that, now we have the security that we're safe."
Monday was also Gary Masarik's first chance to get the vaccine at the clinic in Eaton County. He had tried to get it from his doctor, but he says his doctor was only offering it to high-risk children at the time. He says, "I have diabetes, so i wanted to just be, be on the safe side. and the shot was here and i was hoping i could get it today. The lines weren't very long at all." The eligible group in Barry and Eaton Counties has also expanded to include people like Masarik who are aged 25 to 64-years-old who have conditions that put them at risk. Masarik says, "when you have something like a pandemic, i don't think you can be too safe."
Dr. Robert Schirmer says, "We felt like we had met the demand from the subset of the priority groups, those are individuals under the age of 18 with chronic conditions and we had been holding clinics by appointment for those, and had the sense that we had met the demand there. Also we had been pushing the vaccine out to providers in the community and they've been doing a very fine job at getting influenza vaccine to their patients at risk."
Doctor Schirmer says getting the swine flu vaccine to more groups is a good milestone in the battle to stop the virus from spreading. He says, "The vaccine takes a couple of weeks to work and we need this to get a substantial percentage of the population immunized in order to develop herd immunity and to block the transmission."
The vaccine is still not available to those over the age of 25 who are otherwise healthy...or anyone over 65. As a high school student in Eaton Rapids, Lentz says she'd like to see one more group included. She says, "I was a little bit concerned though that they only had it for health care (providers) and they weren't offering it for teachers because teachers are around a lot of kids in the day and they're out getting the vaccine, there's so many germs that run through a school in a day that teachers should be in a priority group." Schirmer says they will eventually make more people eligible based on demand and availability.
Barry and Eaton Counties aren't the only ones expanding their age groups to healthy people 6 months to 24-years-old and people with underlying conditions that are 25 to 64-years-old.
Clinton County has also started allowing healthy people from 6 months up to 24-years-old to get the vaccine as well as those 25 to 64-years-old with an underlying health condition.
Jackson County is now allowing the vaccination of healthy kids between 6 months and 18-years-old.
The Ingham County Health Department said Monday they were still only vaccinating healthy children from 6 months up to 9-years-old. Children over 10 could still only get the vaccine in Ingham County if they have an underlying health condition.
We have a link to the county websites that will tell you who is now eligible for the vaccine and where you can get it. You can find those links by clicking on the Hotbutton link on this website, www.wilx.com.