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What's the Big Deal About Getting an H1N1 Flu Shot?

December 21, 2009

This year "Tis the Season" has another important meaning. The approaching holidays happen to be situated in what many health officials say is the lull between the second and third H1N1 swine flu surges. So it's time for those who haven't been vaccinated for H1N1 flu to do so.

Take the word of Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson and Tacoma-Pierce County Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen. Follow the lead of Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste and other leaders.

Flu shots weren't a priority for McCarthy until she became county executive and a Tacoma-Pierce County Health Board member at the beginning of this year. "I've come to appreciate the role that every individual plays in public health. It's important that I not only protect myself but also the people around me. I encourage everyone to heed the experts' advice, get vaccinated and follow the personal hygiene tips," she said.

Tacoma's Anderson, who received an H1N1 vaccination in mid December, gave two reasons for doing so. "First, I don't want to be sick, particularly with a disease that is potentially life threatening; second, I don't want to be a carrier of such a disease and be the immediate cause of other people becoming sick," he said.

Chen, whose department is directing Pierce County's H1N1 prevention efforts, said, "The flu shot is the most effective way to protect ourselves, our families and our community from the flu, whether it is seasonal flu or swine flu. It keeps us from getting sick and stops the spread of illness. Of course, as the director of health, it's important that I do what I preach. I wash my hands a lot, cover my cough, and stay home when I get sick."

Chief Batiste made arrangements to be vaccinated shortly after restrictions were lifted and H1N1 was made available to anyone 6 months and older who wanted it. "Based on the health information concerning H1N1 that's been provided by federal, state and local health experts, I felt it was important to be proactive in getting the shot to guard against possible illness," he said.

Here's what other community leaders say:

  • Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Reggie Romines: "From the fire service standpoint, I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and protected against H1N1. I'm concerned for the well being of our fire fighters and medics who have contact with the public on a daily basis."
  • Pierce County Council Chair Roger Bush, who also chairs the council's Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness: "The threat of this dangerous virus is definitely not over. My family and I received our vaccinations, and everyone in Pierce County would be wise to protect themselves and their loved ones as well."
  • Pierce County Emergency Management Director Steve Bailey: "It is important that we limit the spread of this illness, especially given the toll it has taken on the young and those with underlying health issues."
  • Pierce County Planning and Land Services Director Chuck Kleeberg: "I understand that this flu comes in waves and can be much more dangerous in future waves. I don't even want the mild version, much less the bad one. I have many people who depend on me being well."
  • Puyallup Mayor Don Malloy: "Vaccination is important for keeping both the individual and the community healthy."
  • Puyallup Police Chief Jim Collyer: "Vaccination reduces the risk of coming down with the flu and the risk of infecting others including family members, coworkers and the public at large."
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO David Graybill: "Everyone being present and healthy in the workplace is critical in these challenging times. It's hard for me to imagine a good reason not to take preventive measures."
  • Washington State Patrol Capt. Jeffrey DeVere, Tacoma Detachment commander: "We should take H1N1 seriously not only for ourselves and our families, but for those around us. As neighbors and fellow citizens we should consider vaccination and other safety precautions to reduce this potentially tragic flu from spreading. I would estimate that most of us comes in contact with more folks than we realize. I am very worried about our troopers as they contact the public and hope that everyone takes appropriate safety measures to include vaccination to squelch this flu."

Upcoming free H1N1 vaccination opportunities:

  • Monday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Dec. 23 (Saturday and Sunday excluded) from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 to 6 pm in the east wing of Mary Bridge Children's Health Center. MultiCare Health System will provide flu shots to everyone 6 months and older on a first-come basis. Media contact: Media Relations Manager Marce Edwards, (253) 403-1716.

  • Wednesday, Dec. 23 from 10 am to 6 pm in the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department auditorium, 3629 South D Street, Tacoma. Subsequent clinics are scheduled at the same time and location each Wednesday until further notice. Media contact: Public Health Information Officer Don Foreman, (253) 377-3058.
  • Monday, Dec. 28 from 1 to 7 pm at St. Clare Hospital Resource Center, 4908 112th St SW, Lakewood. Free and open to anyone 6 months and older. Media contact: Media Relations Manager Gale Robinette, Franciscan Health System, Pager: 416-0781.

H1N1 by the numbers:
  • Deaths:  Pierce County, 11; Washington state, 65; U.S., 10,000.
  • Hospitalizations:  Pierce County, 150;Washington state, 1,325.
  • Ill: Pierce County, 120,000; U.S., 50 million.
How to prevent H1N1 flu:
  • Vaccination
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (or cough/sneeze into your elbow).
  • Clean routinely frequently touched surfaces such as shared phones and keyboards.
Contact: Dick Ferguson, Media Relations, (253) 377-3215 or dferguson@tpchd.org

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