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Crowds expected at local flu shot clinics

The Fargo-Moorhead area's first H1N1 flu vaccine clinic is tonight in Clay County, but local health officials said it's difficult to gauge how much interest there might be.

The Fargo-Moorhead area's first H1N1 flu vaccine clinic is tonight in Clay County, but local health officials said it's difficult to gauge how much interest there might be.

Both Clay County and Cass County, which hosts its first clinic Saturday, expect crowds because of the limited number of doses now available.

"Certainly, people are calling and asking questions," said Clay County Public Health Director Kathy McKay.

"We're preparing for crowds, but we're not overly concerned," said Fargo Cass Public Health Director Ruth Bachmeier.

National production for the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine has been slow. It's expected to speed up now, which should mean more doses to local communities on a weekly basis.

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Increased demand for vaccines is common when there's a limited supply, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's quite likely that too little vaccine is one of the things that's making people more interested in getting vaccinated," Frieden said.

Despite interest, Otter Tail (Minn.) County Public Health officials had more than 100 of 500 total doses left over after two H1N1 vaccine clinics on Monday. The remaining doses were to be administered by appointment today, said Diane Thorson, the county's public health director.

Thorson said misinformation over the relatively new nasal FluMist vaccine - which was the only form available at the county's clinics - could be one reason for the leftover doses.

"People are just beginning to be comfortable with that version of the flu vaccine," Thorson said.

She said the FluMist form is just as effective and as safe as the injectable form.

FluMist is meant for those between ages 2 and 49, but should not be given to pregnant women or people with underlying conditions, such as asthma.

Clay County will have about 1,500 doses of the FluMist at today's clinic. Cass County will have the same amount during its clinic, but both the FluMist and the injectable forms will be available.

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Children under age 9 need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine at least one month apart. Second doses will not be reserved for children who get vaccinated this week, McKay and Bachmeier say.

More vaccine should be arriving weekly, and the health officials said they want to distribute it as it arrives in order to vaccinate as many people.

Meanwhile, MeritCare Health System and Innovis Health of Fargo have vaccinated at least 900 health care workers between them, spokesmen said this week.

Both health care systems are now vaccinating pregnant women during regularly scheduled appointments as vaccine is available. Innovis also has begun vaccinating some high-risk pediatric patients, spokeswoman Miranda Glandt said.

CLAY COUNTY

  • When: 5 to 7 tonight
  • Where: Nemzek Hall, at 17th Street South and Sixth Avenue, on Minnesota State University Moorhead campus.
  • Parking: J lot north of Nemzek Hall. Enter the hall using the main doors on the west side.
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: Clay County children ages 2 through 9 without underlying health conditions and and caregivers of infants under 6 months.
  • Info: Only FluMist available. Dress appropriately for weather conditions. Children must be with an adult.
  • During the clinic: Check www.twitter.com/publichealthcc for updates on vaccine availability.

CASS COUNTY

  • When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, or until vaccine runs out.
  • Where: Fargo North High School, 801 17th Ave. N.
  • Parking: Southside lot, accessed by 17th Avenue North. Enter through door No. 22.
  • Cost: Free
  • Eligibility: North Dakota children ages 6 months to 9 years.
  • Info: FluMist and injectable forms available. Dress appropriately for weather conditions. Children must be with an adult and show proof of state residency.
  • During the clinic: Check www.twitter.com/fcph for updates on vaccine availability.

Information for regional public health agencies

North Dakota:

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  • Barnes County (Valley City) - (701) 845-8518
  • Ransom County (Lisbon) - (701) 683-6140
  • Richland County (Wahpeton) - (701) 642-7735
  • Steele County (Finley) - (701) 524-2060
  • Stutsman County (Jamestown) - (701) 252-8130
  • Traill County (Hillsboro) - (701) 636-4434

Minnesota:

  • Becker County (Detroit Lakes) - (218) 847-5628
  • Mahnomen, Norman counties (Mahnomen, Ada) - (218) 784-5425
  • Otter Tail County (Fergus Falls) - (218) 998-8320
  • Polk County (Crookston) - (218) 281-3385
  • Wilkin County (Breckenridge) - (218) 643-7122

Flu resources

  • Fargo-Moorhead: Log on to www.fighttheflu.net , or call Fargo Cass Public Health at (701) 241-1360 and Clay County Public Health at (218) 299-5220.
  • In North Dakota: Log on to www.ndflu.com , or call the state's flu hotline at (866) 207-2880.
  • In Minnesota: Log on to www.mdhflu.com , or call the state's flu hotline at (866) 259-4655.
  • Innovis Health: Call (701) 364-3215, or log on to www.innovishealth.com and click on "Visit the H1N1 page" on the bottom right.
  • MeritCare Health System: Call (701) 234-1234, or log on to www.meritcare.com and click on "The Latest H1N1 Flu & Seasonal Flu Information."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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