Trent said it's important for people to realize the H1N1 virus has reversed the traditional strategy with the seasonal flu of getting older people immunized first. Because younger people are more susceptible to the new strain, people 65 and older are now last on the list.
Priority groups targeted
All five counties are trying to target the priority groups with their vaccines, but Mercer County Health Department Director Kathy Crown-Weber said if someone outside the priority groups demands to be vaccinated and the health department has the appropriate vaccine, it can't turn that person away.
Lincoln County Health Department Director Diane Miller said some people outside the priority groups have come by to get vaccinated, but when health department employees explained the situation, they were willing to wait.
The Lincoln County Health Department has held one vaccination clinic aimed at children from 6 months old to 19 years old. Miller estimated about 700-800 Lincoln Countians have been vaccinated. She hopes to hold a second clinic Nov. 14, at which there could be 500-1,000 vaccinations available.
Casey County is another county that has held mass clinics. Amy Tomlinson with Cumberland Valley Health District said at least two mass clinics have been held for Casey Countians, and so far about 1,100 vaccinations have been given out.
On Thursday, the Casey Health Department was administering vaccinations in local schools. Tomlinson expects Casey County to receive another shipment of vaccinations — possibly about 200 — next week.
In Garrard County, Health Department Director Marcia Hodge said there have been four mass clinics. The first two targeted school-age children, the third was aimed at children and adults in high-risk categories, and the fourth was aimed specifically at high-risk adults. A total of 1,400 vaccinations have been given out in Garrard County.
No mass clinics in Mercer
But in Mercer County, Crown-Weber said the health department has not received enough vaccines to make a clinic a viable option.
"In order to do a clinic, we'd have to sort of save back vaccine, which we're not quite willing to do," she said.
"We want to get it out the door as fast as we can."
Crown-Weber said 663 vaccinations have been administered in Mercer County. Police, fire and emergency medical personnel were the first to get the vaccine, she said.
The Mercer health department recently received some vaccinations it could give out to anyone, but Crown-Weber said she expects them to go very quickly.
"We've gotten a little in today," she said on Thursday. "It may be gone by noon tomorrow."
Even when a health department has vaccinations available for the general public, Crown-Weber said she hopes people will consider the greater good and let priority groups remain at the front of the line. It won't be a good situation if healthy people get vaccinated and essentially take those vaccinations away from people who need them more, she said.
Hodge said Garrard County has dispersed some of its vaccines to local doctors' offices, asking them to give it to at-risk groups first. The health department also had about 160 vaccinations still available Thursday afternoon.
While H1N1 vaccines are in tight supply, seasonal flu vaccines are virtually non-existent, according to local health officials.
Trent said the people who produce seasonal flu vaccine have all switched to producing the H1N1 vaccine. Boyle County hasn't had any seasonal flu shots available since September, and Trent said he doesn't expect that to change anytime soon.
Crown-Weber doesn't expect there to be any more seasonal flu vaccinations available this year. By the time all the orders for H1N1 vaccine have been filled, it will be time to start producing next year's flu shots.
But Crown-Weber said there is some good news: Next year, the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines will be combined into a single shot. As for the current H1N1 vaccine shortage, she thinks it will be over soon enough.
"We feel that we're going to be able to accommodate everyone that wants one," she said. "At some point."