|As you may have heard, public health officials are urging everyone in the state to get vaccinated against H1N1. Earlier limits on who could get the vaccine have been lifted. We now have enough supply so we don't have to prioritize to those most at risk from serious complications.
This is very good news because the sooner we all get vaccinated the sooner we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. We also have to keep in mind that it takes about 14 days for the vaccine to become fully effective so if we get vaccinated now we can face the New Year knowing that we won't be putting ourselves or others at risk for catching the H1N1 flu.
I have been thinking of the social responsibility aspect of vaccination. I hope you have seen our TV or print ads that use a lighthearted approach. It's called "The Gift," and it shows with humor how one person can spread the virus to other people - even those he's in contact with for a short time. Pregnant women and children with underlying health conditions are still particularly at risk for this virus.
Vaccinations are available across the state at your health care provider, at local pharmacies or at local clinics. There is enough supply in Oregon now that public health officials have lifted the priority group restrictions and everyone is eligible for vaccine today, no matter their age or health status. The flu vaccine locator at www.flu.oregon.gov or 1-800-978-3040 can help you find vaccine near you.
Also, as we approach the end of the year, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the great job our county and state public health officials and their teams have done. It's been a great example of both the importance and effectiveness of our public health system and of collaboration across Oregon communities. Our own Public Health Division team has done an excellent job responding to the H1N1 outbreak. They have coordinated the state wide response, monitored H1N1 as it traveled across the state, worked with the federal government, worked with local public health departments on vaccine distribution, worked with hospitals to ensure they have the resources they need, launched a brand new www.flu.oregon.gov website and kept the public well-informed.
This pandemic is not over, of course. While hospitalizations are down for H1N1 it's very possible that we will have another serious outbreak in Oregon before flu season ends in the spring.
I am confident that if another outbreak does occur, our public health system will continue doing the great job they have been doing and help us all get through it together.