The first wave of swine flu vaccine is arriving in Pasco County, with the supply being sent to doctors who treat patients in high risk groups, such as children.
"We received our first FluMist doses last week in Pasco County," said Dr. Karalee Kulek-Luzey, medical director of the Pediatric Health Care Alliance, which operates 13 offices across the Tampa Bay area, including two in central Pasco County. "Most of our families being offered it are interested in receiving it."
Hillsborough and Pinellas offices expected to get them by today. Each office is getting an initial supply of about 200, with more arriving each week.
So far, most offices receiving the vaccine have gotten only FluMist, the form inhaled through the nose. That form has been deemed safe for healthy patients ages 2 through 49.
Pregnant women and patients with weakened immune systems or underlying problems such as asthma should not take it.
About 2,500 doses of the injectable form of the vaccine arrived Thursday at the Pasco County Health Department, spokeswoman Deanna Krautner said.
"The vaccine that we receive in house is redistributed out into the community on the same day," she said.
Doses are being sent to offices that serve high-risk groups targeted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: children, health care workers and pregnant women.
Krautner said the Health Department expects to set up its own clinics by early November. Eventually there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it.
Providers who need less than 100 doses can get them from the county Health Department, while those needing more order it directly from the state.
The vaccine arrives at a time when the H1N1 has hit hard in Florida. The state's death toll has climbed to 121, according to figures released Thursday.
About 52 inmates were under quarantine at the Pasco County jail for a week after an inmate tested positive for swine flu Oct. 7. The quarantine was lifted Wednesday after no new cases appeared.
A handful of walk-in clinics recently received FluMist.
Some area obstetricians have not received the vaccine yet but expect to.
Now, the most plentiful version available is FluMist, and "our pregnant ladies can't take that," said Sylvia Felker, clinical manager at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Brandon, which is part of the Tampa Bay Women's Care group that includes offices in New Port Richey.
Dr. Terri McEndree of A Place for Women in Zephyrhills said her group is getting a supply but didn't know how much.
"We haven't gotten them physically yet, but I can't wait until we do," she said.
Dr. Irene Wahba of the New Tampa-based Woman's Group said her office also expects to receive a shipment. However, she said few patients seem to want the vaccine because they mistakenly think it's the same as the swine flu shots of the 1970s that caused some people to become paralyzed.
"I can't believe there's so much hype over it," she said. "It's the same vaccine as the Type A" seasonal flu.
Other doctors also say patients are receiving misinformation about the vaccine.
Some who are able to take FluMist are avoiding it, and some people fear a mercury-based preservative used in some flu shots.
"The amount is very small," Kulek-Luzey said, adding that it has less than what's found in a tuna sandwich. "It's only an issue with multiple vaccines given to very small children."
The greater risk, she said, comes with getting the disease.
Kulek-Luzey said all of the group's 13 offices had seen patients with H1N1 flu.
"We've had a very active caseload for the last four weeks," she said.