Experts watch for complications

WASHINGTON --- Independent health advisers begin monitoring safety of the swine flu vaccine today, an extra step the government promised in this year's unprecedented program to watch for possible side effects.

Decades of safe influenza inoculations mean specialists aren't expecting problems with the swine flu vaccine, because it's made the same way as the regular winter flu vaccine. But systems to track the health of millions of Americans are being tapped to spot any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the false alarms when common disorders coincide with inoculation.

U.S. health officials have spotted no concerns to date, Dr. Bruce Gellin, the head of the National Vaccine Program Office, told The Associated Press.

A specially appointed working group of independent experts will track the vaccine's safety, too. Although the group will deliberate in private meetings, starting today, its charge is to raise a red flag if members feel the feds miss anything.

"Given the rapidity with which this particular vaccine was rolled out, there seems to be an extra-special obligation to make sure things remain as uncomplicated as they have in the past," Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who leads the working group, told the AP.

Though vaccine side effects always are monitored, the H1N1 inoculations are getting extra scrutiny in part because the last mass vaccinations against a very different swine flu, in 1976, were marred by reports of a rare paralyzing condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome.

H1N1 SHOTS AVAILABLE

After a frustrating wait for those seeking a shot against the novel influenza A H1N1 virus, some are finally becoming available,. These early clinics are only for those in the priority group: pregnant women; people from 6 months to 24 years old; adults ages 25 to 64 with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of complications from flu, such as asthma and diabetes; health care workers; and caregivers of those younger than 6 months.

AIKEN COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: H1N1 clinic 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at health department, 828 Richland Ave. West

NORTH AUGUSTA HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 802 E. Martintown Road, Suite 170; H1N1 vaccine clinics from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday

RICHMOND COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 950 Laney-Walker Blvd.; H1N1 shots from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday

COLUMBIA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: H1N1 clinic from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at its Evans clinic, 616 Government Center Way

COLUMBIA COUNTY: H1N1 clinic from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Harlem clinic, 5915 Euchee Creek Drive; 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Appling clinic, 6420 Pollards Pond Road; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 7, Evans Government Center Auditorium, Building A, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, and Grovetown City Hall, 103 Old Wrightsboro Road.

 

PRIORITY GROUP

- Pregnant women

- Children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years old;

- Adults ages 25 to 64 with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of complications from flu, such as asthma and diabetes;

- Health care workers;

- Caregivers of those under age 6 months.

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