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Oklahoma seeks H1N1 vaccine for 15,000 inmates, guards

BY SONYA COLBERG Modified: November 4, 2009 at 4:20 am •  Published: November 4, 2009
Swine flu has hit the prison population, and now thousands of inmates are among those in Oklahoma waiting to get H1N1 vaccinations.

Prison officials have requested about 15,000 H1N1 vaccine dosages, said Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie. One inmate had swine flu when he arrived at an Oklahoma prison but is now recovering in isolation at that prison, he said. He wouldn’t say which prison for fear other inmates might seek retribution.

Another 3,000 doses have been ordered for inmates and employees at the Oklahoma County jail, said sheriff’s office spokesman Mark Myers.

The voluntary vaccinations are for at-risk inmates, full-time employees and medical staff.

"You get into the issues of why are they (prisoners) getting it instead of some members of the community. It’s a high risk population, confined population,” Massie said.

Prisons have asked for vaccine for those in the high-risk categories.

Getting in line
Prisons and jails haven’t received the vaccine, and the state Health Department reports county health departments could provide vaccines for inmates in high-risk groups.

But the Oklahoma City-County Health Department currently is not providing vaccinations to any prison or jail inmates, said spokesman H.R. Holman.

Otherwise, the state plans no vaccine for prisoners until it is given to those who are high priority in the general population, said Larry Weatherford, state Health Department spokesman.

"Generally their health is probably worse than the general population from the impact of drug and alcohol abuse and an unhealthy lifestyle,” he said.

David Moore, 67, said he isn’t happy that prisoners seem to be getting preferential treatment.

"It’s deplorable to me that prisoners know when they’re going to be protected and I don’t. Ongoing Coverage: Flu Ongoing Coverage: Swine flu

Swine flu clinics set
Four public swine flu immunization clinics are scheduled this month at Oklahoma City-area schools, including one Saturday at John Marshall High School. Vaccinations are free and will be offered to pregnant women, people 6 months to 18 years old, custodial parents of infants younger than 6 months old, adults age 19 to 64 with chronic disease and health care workers who have direct contact with acutely ill patients.

The clinics are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at these dates and locations:

Saturday: John Marshall High School, 12201 N Portland Ave.

Nov. 14: Star Spencer High School, 3001 N Spencer Road, Spencer.

Nov. 14: Douglass Mid-High School, 900 Martin Luther King Ave.

Nov. 21: Northwest Classen High School, 2801 NW 27.

No seasonal flu vaccinations will be given at the clinics. Spanish translators will be available.

Permission slips
Anyone bringing a child to a vaccination clinic who is not the parent must have a signed and dated permission slip from the parent authorizing the immunizations. The slip must read:

I (full name of parent) give permission for (full name of person) to obtain the H1N1 vaccination for: (All children must be listed with full names and dates of birth).

Vaccine not sent to Guantanamo
The White House says detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not receiving vaccinations against the swine flu. Robert Gibbs on Tuesday said concern that terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base in Cuba were receiving vaccines was misplaced. Gibbs says no vaccines are at the naval base and none are on the way. A spokesman for the U.S. jail facility a day earlier said guards and then inmates were scheduled for inoculations. Critics were fast to object, saying U.S. civilians were waiting for vaccines while suspected terrorists were being given injections.

Sick leave sought for all workers
A senior House lawmaker is asking Congress to guarantee paid sick leave to workers if their employer asks them to stay home with swine flu or a similar contagious illness. House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller says his measure would protect about 50 million workers that don’t have paid sick leave. Many work in food service and hospitality, where they could make others sick. Miller says workers shouldn’t have to choose between paychecks and the health of co-workers or customers. A hearing will take place this month. Miller plans to seek a quick floor vote.



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