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Children urged to receive second H1N1 vaccine

Now that there's plenty of H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, state health officials encourage parents to be sure their children are fully protected against the virus.

All youngsters under the age of 10 need two doses and many in Washington yet to have received the second shot.

"We're glad so many parents are protecting their kids by getting them vaccinated," says Secretary of Health Mary Selecky.

"It's vital to make sure they take that final step to get the second dose that many kids need for the full effect. We also know there are many kids who haven't been vaccinated at all. And with the plentiful supply, right now is a great time to protect them too."

Washington youngsters aren't alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently said that no state has had more than half of its children fully immunized against H1N1. A recent survey reported that up to 80 percent of children under 10-years-old who'd received the first dose were overdue for the second dose.

A check of Washington data shows similar results. In the state, among children under the age of five, 181,000 got the first dose, but only about 36,000 were administered the second dose needed for full protection.

Even though flu activity has slowed in Washington, it's still important for parents to get their kids vaccinated against H1N1 flu. Parents of kids under 10 should check with their health care provider about the second dose of H1N1 vaccine, and have their older children vaccinated, too. Parents should also ask about seasonal flu vaccine. Many local health agencies, retail pharmacies, and grocery stores also have vaccine.

People 65 and older are less likely to get H1N1 flu, but those who do are more likely to have complications or get secondary infections, like pneumonia. Since H1N1 vaccine is readily available, seniors are encouraged to get it. People 65 and older who've never had the pneumococcal vaccine should get that one, too. Pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for young children, along with older children and adults under 65, with certain medical conditions.

The H1N1 flu strain that's circulating in Washington and across the country is a new stain and no one can predict what's going to happen. It could come back strong and there's enough vaccine now for everyone in the state who wants it.

The state Department of Health has information about vaccine and where to find it online. The agency's H1N1 website (www.doh.wa.gov/h1n1/default.htm) offers tips on how schools, businesses and people at home can stay healthy as this year's flu season continues. The agency also posts H1N1 updates on Twitter (http://twitter.com/wa_deptofhealth).

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