State Begins Setting Up Network To Deal With Flu Vaccine

August 15, 2009|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

In anticipation of a mass vaccination campaign against swine flu this fall, Maryland health officials are communicating with doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals about the details of administering a vaccine to nearly 3 million of the state's most vulnerable residents.

Providers who plan to administer the vaccine should begin signing up at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Web site, www.dhmh.state.md.us.

Officials created an online database Friday to take requests from family doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals that would likely give the inoculations.

While Maryland officials are waiting for details from the federal government about how agreements would work between the state and providers, they are eager to begin the process for the vaccine campaign that could start as soon as next month - earlier than previous federal estimates of mid-October.

"We are shooting for the end of September to have the providers lined up and ready to go and to have the seasonal flu campaign under way," said Frances Phillips, the state's deputy secretary for public health services.

Anticipating that there won't be enough vaccine for every American, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set five priority groups: pregnant women; people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old; non-elderly people with chronic illness; health care workers; and caretakers of children younger than 6 months old. Phillips said she expects the state to receive enough vaccine for the estimated 2.9 million Marylanders in those categories.

"I think we'll have enough. The question is how soon will we have enough of it," Phillips said. "School is starting, [and] as the weather gets colder, it's going to be a real race to get it to people with the highest risk to develop immunity so when they are exposed, they are protected."

The vaccine could cost consumers between $10 and $20, but state officials are still working out the details of the price and whether it would be reimbursed by insurers.

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