About three-quarters of Chandler firefighters eligible to receive doses from an early batch of the H1N1 flu vaccine have refused it, according to fire department officials.
Chandler firefighters receive H1N1 vaccine
Seasonal flu vaccine delayed for some providers
Most of the 200 doses allocated to the department’s roughly equal number of emergency responders likely will be returned to Maricopa County health officials for redistribution to medical professionals likely to encounter cases of the virus, said Marc Walker, a fire department spokesman.
Only about 50 Chandler firefighters volunteered Wednesday and Thursday to receive a nasal mist containing a weakened form of the virus, said Donna Pierce, a Chandler Fire Department captain who traveled around to several city fire stations to administer the vaccine.
Many of those who volunteered for the vaccine said it was because they have young children to whom they didn’t want to spread a possible infection.
“The other two-thirds are like, ‘Nope, we don’t want it,’” Pierce said.
Those who declined the vaccination generally said it was because the vaccine was new and untested, she said.
Three volunteers at a fire station just southwest of Warner and Alma School roads opted to take the vaccine Thursday afternoon. Among them was firefighter Mike Cravener, who has a baby at home and whose wife is pregnant. Cravener said if he is exposed, he doesn’t want to pass on the illness to his family.
“I feel like I should probably do it,” he said.
Suzy Vargo, a fire department engineer, took the vaccine, as well. Vargo said it’s because she has a 21-month-old at home. She said firefighters already are responding to calls from patients with flulike symptoms in Chandler.
Chandler firefighters were the city’s first employees to have been offered the H1N1 flu vaccine.
County health officials have said doses for the public are still three to four weeks away, but area hospital workers began receiving the vaccine last week, and another 100 to 200 doses are slated to go out soon to paramedics, pediatricians and obstetrical-gynecological doctors.
Queen Creek fire Chief Van Summers said nearly all of the town’s 28 firefighters have been vaccinated with the nasal spray vaccine, delivered by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health last week. The main exceptions, including him, have been those people over age 49, who are not advised to take this form of the vaccine, and two firefighters who were on vacation.
Summers said the department’s emergency responders have been receptive to the voluntary program.
“We’re out seeing patients in emergencies and we don’t want our people to expose the patients to the flu,” Summers said.
He added that he wouldn’t agree with mandating the vaccine.
“Everyone has their own medical history, so health care should be a personal decision,” Summers said.
The Gilbert Fire Department has received 100 doses of the nasal spray, according to emergency management coordinator Sherri Gibbons. As of Friday afternoon, 52 firefighters had taken the vaccine; the department has 153 firefighters.
Gibbons said the vaccines will continue to be administered.
Mesa’s vaccination schedule for its nearly 450 emergency responders begins this week. Keith Pyers, division chief at the city’s Emergency Medical Services Division, said the department received multiple queries about the vaccine’s safety, since being told three weeks ago that the vaccine would be made available.
Pyers said all vaccines tend to be controversial, so the concerns were not a surprise.
“The question we’ve received most has to do with the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal — if the nasal mist contains it,” Pyers said.
Pyers was uncertain how many Mesa emergency responders will go ahead and get vaccinated. The response rate to the regular flu shot typically has been between 60 and 70 percent, he said.
Source: East Valley Tribune
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