So as to avoid overlap in the distribution of seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccinations, Gannett Health Services will begin distributing the seasonal flu vaccine on Friday, about a month earlier than usual compared to past years. Gannett wants to finish administering seasonal flu vaccinations before the H1N1 vaccines arrive so that the distribution system does not become too congested.
“Our plan is to offer vaccination clinics throughout the fall semester to offer the vaccine we have (whether seasonal or H1N1) when we have it,” Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations at Gannett Health Services, stated in an e-mail. “Though we are starting early with seasonal flu vaccine, we will offer H1N1 vaccine as it starts to come in.”
Health care providers expect the H1N1 vaccine to be ready for distribution sometime in October, according to Gannett’s website.
The seasonal flu vaccine is not typically distributed until late October. This year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that the vaccine be offered earlier than normal.
“The same organizations and medical providers that deliver the seasonal flu vaccine will be needed to deliver the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” Dittman stated. These organizations will need as many resources as possible to conduct the H1N1 vaccinations, so they want to finish many of the seasonal flu vaccinations first.
Gannett’s staff has already been working extra hours to meet the needs of the H1N1 outbreak, Dittman stated. The vaccination clinics further stretch the system.
“We will have reinforcements from our crew of per diem nursing staff members” working at the clinics, in addition to regular nursing staff, Dittman stated.
Gannett will be holding fewer vaccination clinics this year in order to conserve its limited staffing resources.
“Though we will hold fewer clinics, they will be longer and well-staffed to move people through as quickly as possible,” Dittman stated.
Last year, 11,300 people received the seasonal flu vaccine. Cornell has ordered 12,000 doses of the vaccine for this year, she said.
“More people than usual are aware of the reality that Ithaca is not immune to the flu,” Dittman stated.
The Tompkins County Healthy Department has also begun vaccinations for seasonal flu earlier than usual this year. According to its website, its first vaccination clinic was held on Wednesday.
Appointments are required to receive a vaccination at one of the county’s community health clinics, Theresa Lyczko, Tompkins County Health Department public information officer, said.
Dittman said that there are several misconceptions regarding why the seasonal flu vaccine is offered earlier this year.
“The reason for offering the seasonal flu vaccine early this year is not because it provides protection against the novel H1N1 (‘’swine”) flu virus: it does not,” she stated. “Nor is it because seasonal flu is expected earlier this year: it is not. Seasonal flu usually comes to Ithaca in January and February.”
H1N1 flu is expected to continue to be prevalent even after seasonal flu season begins, Dittman said.
“We want to give students the best available protection so they don’t run the risk of getting one flu after the other,” she stated.
Gannett has currently scheduled two seasonal flu clinics. The first will take place on Friday at the Straight from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Currently, more than 4,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine have arrived on campus. As more of the 12,000 doses ordered by Gannett are delivered, additional clinics will be scheduled, Dittman said.
“We urge people to remember that seasonal flu season is still months away, and there should be plenty of time for us to receive our supply,” she stated.
Vaccines are free for Cornell students, faculty and staff.