DALLAS — Free swine flu shots will be available to all Dallas County residents, starting next week.
County health officials decided Tuesday that it was time to expand the vaccination effort beyond the high-risk groups that have been receiving the scarce H1N1 shots since October.
“We felt like we got the vaccine out to the priority groups and that their interest in getting the shots was waning,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. “If we don’t do it now, we may end up having to throw out vaccine that we don’t use.”
Walk-in shot clinics will be held next week, starting Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at three locations: The health department’s downtown Dallas headquarters, at 2774 N. Stemmons Freeway; and its suburban clinics at 440 S. Nursery Road in Irving, and 2774 Valwood Parkway in Farmers Branch.
The county has distributed most of its 70,000 H1N1 vaccine doses to local pharmacies over the past few weeks. About 5,000 doses had not been distributed by Monday, indicating it was time to drop the restrictions. Local physicians and clinics also have received about 370,000 doses.
“We will inform the state of our decision,” Thompson said. “We can’t wait for them to decide for us.”
Thompson said he would consult with Dallas-area pharmacies later this week to determine when they will be allowed to broaden their vaccine distribution beyond the high-risk groups, which include pregnant women, people 6 months to 24 years old and those aged 25 to 64 who have chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
However, a Saturday shot clinic in Richardson, sponsored by the county, will serve only those in the high-risk groups who have made an appointment by calling the county’s hotline — 214-819-6001. The free H1N1 shots and nasal mist will be distributed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church at 1220 W. Belt Line Road, Richardson.