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Flu vaccine is available through local service

Shhhhh. Don't spread it around too much, but some more flu vaccine has arrived.

Visiting Nurse, which runs the annual “Shoo the Flu” flu shot campaign, has received about one fourth of its shipment and expects to begin giving flu shots on Monday at two area Food Towns, and other stores in following weeks.

A schedule of flu shot sites offered by Visiting Nurse is on its web site at or by calling the service's hotline at 897-2806.

Nancy Host, president of Visiting Nurse, was a little reluctant to spread the word about the flu shots when contacted yesterday. It's not that she doesn't want people to know, but Visiting Nurse is bracing itself for a stampede of people desperate to get a flu shot.

“We're going to do the best we can,” Ms. Host said. “But we're asking the `well' population to wait.”

Many doctors, locally and nationally, are worried that otherwise healthy people are getting flu shots before those most in need of a shot.

Those not at risk for the flu should wait until sometime in December to get their flu shot, doctors say. Those who should receive a flu shot this month include: Persons 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, anyone with chronic diseases like diabetes, women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season, and health care workers.

Delays in the manufacture of this year's flu vaccine have meant many doctors' offices and services like Visiting Nurse have not received flu vaccine or have only received partial shipments. The Toledo-Lucas County health department ran out of its partial supply earlier this month and hopes to get more by mid-December.

Randy Hertzer, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, said he has heard many complaints from doctors and others about nonmedical sites giving flu shots before doctors' offices receive vaccine.

“It's starting to get nasty out there,” Mr. Hertzer said of the complaints he's hearing. “Some people are under the misimpression that the Centers for Disease Control or the state health department has control over this vaccine, and we don't.”

Flu vaccine is provided by whoever buys it and provides it, he said, and the government doesn't say who can or can't give the vaccine.

So far, there haven't been any confirmed influenza cases in Ohio, Mr. Hertzer said, and health experts are hoping the flu season - which typically comes in January or February - doesn't arrive early. If the season arrives on time, people vaccinated in December should be fine.

For now, Mr. Hertzer said the message is the same: “We keep pounding the same drum. Please be patient. And if you're one of the `worried well', let those at high risk go first.”

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