If you're at high risk for the H1N1 flu but are putting off getting vaccinated because of long lines at the health district, there's good news: Your doctor in the next few weeks could receive more doses of the vaccine.
Depending on how many people attend two public H1N1 clinics on Saturday, the Southern Nevada Health District could reallocate some of its supply to private providers, state health officials said Thursday.
An expanded pool of people will be eligible for the vaccine Saturday. Adults with medical conditions have been added to the district's list of high risk groups, in line with federal guidelines.
The health district had between 35,000 and 38,000 doses on-hand as of Tuesday, according to state records, but vaccinated only about 5,000 people at its last Saturday clinic.
The news of possible reallocation comes shortly after the health district was heavily criticized by the state for its H1N1 distribution practices.
State Health Division spokeswoman Martha Framsted said the state has asked the district to provide the division a formal distribution plan next week, after the clinics.
If there are a significant number of doses left, Framsted said, redistribution will occur.
"The advantage of reallocation is it increases access to the vaccine," Framsted said. "Patients can stay at their own doctor and avoid the lines."
Health district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said she doesn't believe there will be extra doses.
"I can't imagine talking about taking doses from us, given the (size of) clinics we're planning," Sizemore said.
The two high schools where the clinics will be, Centennial in northwest Las Vegas and Foothill in Henderson, will provide more space for vaccinations than was available at previous clinics at health district offices. More staff will be on hand and more parking will be available.
Framsted acknowledged that reallocation isn't a guaranteed scenario.
"They may not have a whole lot left after Saturday," she said.
Earlier this week Richard Whitley, administrator of the state Health Division, challenged the district's decision to withhold the vaccine from adults with medical conditions, something health agencies elsewhere in the state hadn't done.
In an e-mail Whitley sent Monday, he demanded that all five groups considered at-risk by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention receive equal access to the vaccine statewide.
Dr. Lawrence Sands, the district's chief health officer, responded that when the vaccine is in short supply, the district is permitted to further prioritize among high-risk groups and did so to protect people at greater risk, such as pregnant women and young children.
Whitley replied that the vaccine was not in short supply at the district and that its policies needed to change.
On Tuesday, the district announced that people ages 19 to 64 with medical conditions would be eligible for the vaccine. Before Saturday in Clark County, people in that group who were abiding by the district's priorities had to rely on private physicians or travel outside the county to get vaccinated.
The clinics will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both injectable and inhalable versions of the vaccine will be available; however, only the injectable version is suitable for people with medical conditions and only high-risk priority groups under CDC guidelines are eligible for either vaccine.
These include adults with medical conditions, pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months, health care personnel who deal with patients, all people ages 6 months to 24 years, and, now, adults up to age 64 with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
On Thursday, however, some adults with medical conditions did receive the vaccine early.
Opportunity Village, an organization that helps intellectually disabled adults in Las Vegas find jobs and learn vocational skills, had a clinic that served 371 clients and employees, said spokesman Stephen Miller.
Most of the clients fall within the 19 to 64 age range, he said, and the employees qualify for the vaccine because they are health care providers.
"The people we serve, with disabilities, have weaker immune systems than everyone else," said Miller.
Sizemore said the group was considered "medically fragile" and a special clinic was a great opportunity to provide vaccinations to eligible candidates.
Three Clark County School District schools that serve special needs students who are often medically fragile also have received vaccines: Variety School, John F. Miller Elementary School and Stewart School.
Not all schools in Clark County will be given vaccines because most don't have enough nurses on their staffs.
The health district would love to help but is already stretched too thin, Sizemore said.
"We wouldn't be opposed to doing it, but we don't have the staff," Sizemore said.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.