EVERETT - At a special flu hotline located inside the Snohomish County's Emergency Management Headquarters at Paine Field, people are very busy answering phones.
Therese Quinn works for the Snohomish Health District and is assigned here. Like the flu, the word about the call center is spreading. She says there were 40 calls on Tuesday and double that on Wednesday. Before noon Friday, there were 80 calls.
People have questions about the flu and want to know where they can get a vaccine. They have answers about the flu. The hard part is providing encouraging news about the vaccine.
Now, Snohomish County has to make hard decisions like counties around Washington and the U.S. Who gets it first?
The flu vaccine is in short supply, so the Snohomish Health District is having to make a hard decision. Even though there are other groups with underlying health conditions that are recommended to get the vaccine, right now the county is restricting its current supply in three free Saturday clinics to pregnant women and young children between six months and four years of age.
Depending on age, children will be given either FluMist or an injection.
Health care workers have the highest priority, and not all of them are vaccinated yet. The H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine is being handled by the government. The vaccine is allocated to the states by the federal government, then the states divide that allotment into the counties.
Snohomish County had originally hoped for 20,000 to 40,000 doses in the first round. It got less than 7,500. Now, the county has 17,000 on hand, but has 200,000 vulnerable people to treat in the higher risk categories. So, the county has to prioritize.
To find the clinics, go to www.snocoflu.com or call the hotline at (425) 388-5088.