- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The first batch of swine flu vaccine isn’t expected to include enough doses for every Virginian who wants one, but state officials said Tuesday that they plan to have an adequate supply of the shots within two months of its release.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases its first shipment of the vaccine, which is expected in October, the state’s share will be about 900,000 doses, according to projections cited by state officials.

About 2.1 million Virginians - or nearly a third of residents - get the regular seasonal flu vaccination each year, and some polls suggest that twice as many people will be interested in getting the swine flu vaccine, said state Health Commissioner Karen Remley.

However, she and Gov. Tim Kaine said they expect to have enough doses of the vaccine for every Virginian who wants it. Mr. Kaine said his goal is that anybody in Virginia who wants the vaccine will be able to get it within two months of the vaccine’s release.

Virginia will try to allocate the vaccine to priority groups, which include pregnant women and children, heath care workers and emergency personnel.

The swine flu vaccine is being tested by the federal government for safety and effectiveness.

Data suggest that swine flu, also called the H1N1 flu virus, is no more harmful than seasonal flu, Dr. Remley said. But when it strikes, it tends to be more severe when it hits pregnant women and children, and less severe among the elderly.

But Dr. Remley cautioned that the virus is still relatively new, and public health officials will be monitoring for any mutations or changes in how the virus afflicts the population.

Mr. Kaine said the state has no plans to close a particular school if a swine flu case is diagnosed among the student body.

Public health officials are also urging people to stay home from work and school if they suspect they are getting the flu and remain home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides.

Swine flu has sickened more than 1 million Americans since it emerged in April, and is responsible for about 500 deaths. In Virginia, the virus has been associated with three deaths, according to the state health department.

Mr. Kaine, who is also Democratic National Committee chairman, visited Samuel W. Tucker Elementary to talk about the state’s preparations for swine flu. Students gave a demonstration on how to wash your hands properly, and the governor’s technique received poor marks from fourth-grader Michelle Marfo.

When it was Mr. Kaine’s turn to try, he got it all wrong, Michelle said. Not enough soap. Didn’t rinse the requisite 20 seconds. And he should have used a paper towel to turn off the faucet, rather than his bare hand.

“These guys taught me something,” Mr. Kaine said after the presentation.

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