As part of the next phase of the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) strategy to provide vaccine to Ohioans, the department has told its partners to expand H1N1 influenza vaccine eligibility to all Ohioans beginning Dec. 14. “We continue to urge high-risk Ohioans to seek H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines,” ODH Director Alvin D. Jackson, M.D said.
Nearly 2.3 million doses of the vaccine are already available in the state, and more is expected to arrive each week. Health officials evaluated several factors before making the decision to lift restrictions on vaccine eligibility, including prior vaccine distribution, feedback from local health departments and discussions with other state and federal health officials.
ODH and local partners have used various strategies to reach the at-risk populations including school-based, appointment-only and mass clinics and distribution to private providers to reach at-risk Ohioans.
Local partners will have flexibility to determine if it is necessary to continue prioritizing the vaccine for the at-risk populations, based on the needs in their local area.
In addition to being vaccinated, Ohioans can help stop the spread of illness by washing hands thoroughly and often; covering mouths when sneezing or coughing; and staying home from work or school if sick, ODH officials say.
For more information on vaccine availability, check the ODH Web site at http://www.flu.ohio.gov or call the ODH H1N1 information line at 1-866-800-1404 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.