DOWNTOWN — Swine flu vaccinations have finally arrived.
The Venice Family Clinic welcomed the long-awaited vaccines for the H1N1 flu virus on Tuesday, receiving 500 doses of the FluMist nasal spray, which are being administered at the Rose Avenue medical facility and Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center on Pico Boulevard.
As directed by state public health officials, the clinic is targeting the initial dosages to children 2-10 years old and healthy people 2-49 years old who live with infants younger than 6 months, Nurse Manager Darcie Miller said.
While concerns over swine flu have at times reached paranoiac levels, particularly when cases were initially reported in the spring, the demand for the vaccination has been surprisingly low.
The clinic has only given 15 doses of the FluMist spray over the first few days, about a third of which have been to children.
Miller said that she’s noticed parents declining the vaccine for their children.
“People are seeing so much in the news that it’s arriving this week … that it gives the feeling that it’s so new and somehow untried,” she said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday received a shipment of 92,000 doses of FluMist, which will be allocated to pediatricians, family practitioners and clinics. More than 3,000 providers in the county have requested the vaccine.
Jonathan Fielding, the county director of public health, said he expects to receive larger shipments in the coming weeks, bringing the total to more than one million by the end of the month.
“There is not a shortage,” he said during a press conference on Thursday. “There will be plenty of vaccine for everyone who wants to get immunized.”
Many major healthcare providers have yet to receive their allocation, including Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital and the Westside Family Health Center on Ocean Park Boulevard.
Ted Braun, spokesman for Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, said that he is not sure when the supply of H1N1 vaccines will arrive but hopes it will be within the next few weeks.
“We’re anxious to get our staff vaccinated so they will be protected and available to take care of patients when flu season hits its peak,” he said.
The Westside Family Health Center, which serves families living at 200 percent or below the federal poverty line, is expecting to receive a shipment in the next two weeks, having ordered about 1,000 doses.
Deb Farmer, the president and CEO, said that there have been very few calls requesting the vaccine.
“Like any other vaccine there is some trepidation out there but I do hope that people do get inoculated, especially in those high risk area categories,” she said.
Dr. David Baron, the chief of staff at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital who is also a family physician in Malibu, said the anticipated side effects of the H1N1 vaccine are essentially identical to the vaccine for regular seasonal flu where patients could feel ill the following day. Generally patients who are receiving their first flu vaccination are more likely to have such a reaction.
“I think people have mixed feelings about whether they want the vaccine,” he said. “It’s a preventable illness which in some cases can be damaging but it’s also important not to be alarmist about it because … getting a vaccine is important and helpful.”
He said there have been suspected swine flu cases in Santa Monica and Malibu.
Ana Heard, who is the mother to a 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, said she’s undecided about whether to seek vaccinations for her children.
“It’s a toss up,” the Marina del Rey resident said on Friday while shopping in Santa Monica. “If the pediatrician recommends it, (we’ll get it).”
Phil McKinney, a Venice dad who has a 1-year-old son, said he plans to seek medical advice about the safety of the vaccination during his next doctor visit.
“I plan to get it to reduce the chances that he catches it,” McKinney said.
Derrick Oliver contributed to this report.