BROOKSVILLE — With restrictions lifted just before Christmas on who could receive the H1N1 flu vaccine in Hernando County, residents of all ages over 6 months are beginning to get immunized.
Because of manufacturing delays, immunizations were first limited to children, those with at-risk health conditions and health care workers. On Dec. 22, the restrictions were lifted in Hernando when a good supply of the vaccine arrived, said Ann-Gayl Ellis, spokeswoman for the county Health Department.
A total 34,440 doses have been allocated to the county through the Health Department, which has conducted flu shot clinics and distributed the vaccine to physicians, pharmacies and clinics, which are offering shots to the public.
The vaccine itself is being provided free to state health agencies by the federal government, and given free by the Health Departments to independent providers. The providers often charge a fee for administration, "which is perfectly acceptable," Ellis said. Generally, the fee ranges from $15 to $20 per shot to cover the cost for a qualified person to deliver the injection and for paperwork.
The Health Department is continuing to give free immunizations to anybody who wants one from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday at its Spring Hill location at the Westside Government Center, 7465 Forest Oaks Blvd.
Also, Health Department staffers will administer shots, upon request, to any organization, neighborhood group or business that can muster a minimum of 50 recipients. The vaccines and service are free.
"We are happy to go to them to do vaccinations," Ellis said.
Likewise, the department will set up an express clinic at any event expected to draw 50 people or more. For instance, it is furnishing an on-site free clinic at the Florida Classic Clusters dog show at Florida Classic Park, east of Brooksville, this week and next.
"We're trying to get it out there as much as we can to help people get vaccinated," Ellis said.
Groups can schedule a Health Department visit by calling (352) 540-6800.
While swine flu immunizations are not recommended for children under 6 months of age, Ellis urged those who work with infants to get shots so that they do not transmit the disease.
The flu season varies from place to place, but in Florida it is expected to continue until early April, Ellis said. It takes two to three weeks after a vaccination for a person to build immunity to the virus, she said.
Beth Gray can be reached at email@example.com.