POLL: Collier opens swine flu vaccination to all age groups

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— The Collier County Health Department is opening H1N1 vaccination clinics starting today to anyone in the community who wants the immunization against the novel swine flu.

The announcement lifts any age or

The intent with opening clinics to the general public is to allow anyone to get the vaccine before the influx of winter residents and tourists who may seek out the vaccine while in Naples.

“Getting vaccinated now will allow you to be fully immunized by the new year and should help you stay healthy when our stores, theaters and community as a whole become more crowded during the tourist season,” Dr. Joan Colfer, executive director of the health department, said in a press release.

There is no cost for the vaccinations and no one is required to show their insurance cards.

Winter residents and tourists can get the H1N1 vaccine here because the federal government covers the cost, said Deb Millsap, spokeswoman for the heath department.

Since starting clinics for certain risk-groups Nov. 4, the department and doctors’ practices have vaccinated 57,000 people, including children in schools and day-care centers, she said.

Last week, the department opened clinics to healthy people under 65 and to people 65 and older with an underlying medical condition. Attendance at those clinics from those groups has begun to wind down.

“We gave it a good solid week for people older than 65 with an underlying health condition,” she said. “We feel it is the right before the holidays to get everyone (who wants it.) The anticipation is that part-time winter residents will need to get the vaccine. They may not have had the opportunity to get the vaccine in Ohio.”

The expectation is that clinics in the next few days will see 1,200 to 1,500 people each day and then the numbers will drop again, she said.

More clinic dates will be scheduled in January but the North Collier Regional Park location will no longer be available in January, Millsap said.

The Lee County Health Department opened H1N1 vaccination clinics to the general public on Monday.

Since tracking of H1N1 began this past summer, the Florida Department of Health reports there have been 31 swine flu-related hospitalizations in Lee and four in Collier. Lee has had five deaths and Collier has had none. Statewide, 174 people have died from the H1N1 flu, according to the state.

Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman

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