H1N1 vaccinations are suddenly Sabbath friendly.
The Allegheny County Health Department announced this week that it will administer H1N1 shots this Sunday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
Why the new venue? The current venues are scheduled on Saturday, making it impossible for Sabbath-observant Jews to go.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
“If we had had enough vaccine the Health Department was going to do vaccinations on consecutive four clinics Saturdays and four clinics on Sundays (before Thanksgiving),” said Health Department physician Dr. James Lando, “but with limited supplies we couldn’t run clinics on both days.”
So the Health Department scheduled its clinics for Saturdays, “until I pointed out that it could be a problem,” Lando said. “To his credit, Dr. Dixon understood. … Anyone outside of Squirrel Hill is able to come in and anyone inside of Squirrel Hill can walk there, so I think Dr. Dixon was very sensitive to the needs of the community.”
Lando, himself a Sabbath-observant Jew, said he has heard from Jewish residents in Squirrel Hill that they were unable to take advantage of the Health Department clinics.
In addition, the Squirrel Hill Health Center only had H1N1 live vaccinations, which come in mist and cannot be taken by many people with specific medical conditions, SHHC Director Susan Kalson said.
That doesn’t mean the Sabbath-observant Jews are getting the shot at lower rates than the rest of the population, She added.
“A lot of people who were anxious have found ways of getting the vaccine,” She said. “When we opened our immunization clinic on Forbes after Thanksgiving, we got a lot of people, but now it’s slowing down some.”
Like other venues throughout this influenza pandemic, not everyone who comes is guaranteed a shot that day.
“Because supplies are limited, this clinic is recommended for those most vulnerable to the H1N1 influenza virus,” Dixon said in a prepared statement, “though no one will be turned away.”
As many as 3,000 shots could be available Sunday, according to Lando.
The priority groups include:
• Individuals between the ages of 6 months and 24 years;
• People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months;
• Pregnant women;
• Health care providers and emergency medical services personnel;
• People 25 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease and neurocognitive or neuromuscular disorders.
No documentation of age, occupation or condition will be required.
According to the Health Department, H1N1 currently affects younger people, with more than 70 percent of the reported cases in Pennsylvania involving people under the age of 25. Since those 65 and older represent less than 2 percent of all local cases, they are being asked to wait for H1N1 vaccine until supplies increase.
Lando couldn’t predict how many people might turn out Sunday to get the vaccine.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1005.)