Don’t let our older citizens be flu victims |

Don’t let our older citizens be flu victims

Wait a minute. Did we hear right? The California county with the oldest average population in the state – 17 percent over the age of 65, compared to the state average of 10 percent – will not be getting any flu vaccine this year?

That’s what Nevada County’s health director, Dr. Sheldon Minkin, says. “We are not expecting anything, and nothing is available in the western end of the county.”

We don’t want to start a panic, but it’s time for our county and city leaders to call on Congressman John Doolittle, State Senator Sam Aanestad, and State Assemblyman Rick Keene to do all they can to get at least some flu vaccine for our most fragile and vulnerable citizens.

Shipment of half the nation’s anticipated supply of flu shots – 48 million doses – were halted in Britain because of contamination. That batch included all of California’s share.

Federal health authorities are trying to reallocate 22 million doses produced at a Pennsylvania plant to those most in danger of death by influenza – the elderly, health care workers, and children between the ages of 6 and 24 months.

Nevada County must strongly lobby for its share before it’s too late. Otherwise, Minkin said, “there will more deaths than usual.”

Flu and related pneumonia kill an estimated 36,000 Americans a year. The respiratory virus typically strikes late in the year and peaks in January and February, but the time frame – and the virulence of the illness each year – is hard to predict. It could hit as early as November.

At a Monday conference in San Francisco, the American College of Emergency Physicians said there is a potential public health disaster this winter, and called on the Bush administration to convene a “crisis summit” to plan for a surge of unvaccinated flu victims at hospitals.

High-population areas of California will use their clout to appropriate what little vaccine the state is able to receive. Nevada County’s citizens are asking that our leaders to do all they can to ensure that the plight of our elderly is not forgotten in the stampede.

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