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Ariz. health aide says docs decide on vaccinations

Young children and other specific populations will be identified as top priorities when Arizona starts distributing swine flu vaccine next month. But the state’s health director said Sept. 15 it will be up to physicians and other front-line providers to make choices on who gets the shots and sprays first.

“Those decisions will be made in pediatric offices,” said Will Humble, interim director of the state Department of Health Services.

An initial supply of up to 1 million doses will be made available by late October, but there probably won’t be enough to start mass vaccinations for the general public until December, according to state officials.

That’s according to a report on Arizona’s swine flu preparedness and response plans released Sept. 15 by Humble’s department.

Gov. Jan Brewer voiced confidence that state and local health officials had prepared the state to handle the regular flu season and the swine flu outbreak “very effectively and strategically.”

The state’s preference is that priority for early vaccinations start with toddlers, preschoolers, pregnant women and health care providers with direct patient contact.

“That’s the subset of our focus in October,” Humble said.

Other groups deemed to have a priority for early vaccinations include people who live with children younger than 6 months of age, emergency medical services personnel, children and young adults through age 24, and older people with health conditions deemed to put them at risk of medical complications from the flu.

The priority groups add up to about half of the 6 million Arizonans.

While the state is providing guidance on priority groups, individual circumstances will shape many providers’ decisions on whether specific individuals should get vaccinations from early supplies or wait a while until the vaccine is more generally available, Humble said.

For instance, a family doctor could decide to give vaccine to an older sibling of a younger child with a health condition to try to keep swine flu out of the home, Humble said in an interview.

On the other hand, a doctor whose supply is running low could ask a parent to wait a couple of weeks for vaccine for a healthy youngster, he said.

“These are all shades of grade,” Humble said.

By February, “we’ll certainly have enough for everybody,” he said.

The state now has an allotment of 4 million doses, but state DHS spokeswoman Laura Oxley noted that federal officials have said they’ll provide more if needed.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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