RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Today, the State Health Commissioner announced Virginia will soon be getting its first shipment of the H1N1 vaccine. The 43,500 doses are less than expected, but the vaccine would be made available only to a small group, at first anyway.
"Our goal in the state of Virginia as we allocate the vaccine is to really focus on those key priority groups," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley.
Those groups are healthcare and emergency workers, the chronically ill, children, and their caretakers. This initial version of the vaccine, which comes in a nasal spray, will take up to a week to arrive at hospitals and health departments.
"The vaccine's been tested. It is safe," Dr. Remley said.
Virginia expects to get much more vaccine, including the injectable version for pregnant women, in the coming weeks. It would be offered free of charge at health department functions and at a small cost for those without insurance.
"The Medicare rate for our region is $19.96, so that is the most anybody would pay anywhere for vaccine," she said.
Health officials are unsure exactly how many more doses will be shipped, or when they will arrive. Early on, there appears to be little concern of a shortage.
"I think by mid-November, every Virginian should have an opportunity to get vaccinated," said Remley.
The general public is not required to get the vaccine, but health officials are encouraging it.
"It's certainly much more dangerous to get H1N1 and it's a higher risk than it is to get the vaccine," she said.
A new report by "Trust for America's Health" warns that if a third of people wind up catching swine flu, Virginia and 14 other states could run out of hospital beds around the time the outbreak peaks. But today health officials disputed that, saying that Virginia is well-prepared in the event of widespread infection.