State decision makes flu shots available to all




Posted on January 16, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 17 at 11:16 AM

DALLAS — The Billingsleys thought having health insurance would make it easy to find a flu shot for their grandson. They were wrong.

"It hasn't made any difference at all," said LeNeta Billingsley. "We've called several places, and they were all out."

The Billingsleys were turned away from drug stores, too, because of a state regulation that prohibits pharmacists from giving flu shots to children under seven.

The Dallas County Health Department asked the state to temporarily lift restrictions that allow them to dispense vaccine only to children on Medicaid.

Wednesday, state health officials provided 1,000 doses of flu vaccine to Dallas County from a separate stock of vaccine that can be used on residents without restrictions.

That supply allows the county to temporarily distribute free flu shots to people with insurance as well as to private doctors who've run out.

"Right now, we're contacting Children's Medical Center," said Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson. "They're going to check in with their physician community to find out how much of the pediatric flu vaccine they will need."

Thompson believes the state and federal government should permanently amend laws to let county health departments distribute vaccine to anyone during an outbreak. He also said pharmacies should also be allowed to give flu shots to children under seven.

"This is a teachable moment," Thompson said. "I'm a firm believer that this is a test case for our public health preparedness in a biologic episode, or in a public health emergency."

The county's efforts, for now, turned into five-year old Landon's lucky (or perhaps from his viewpoint, unlucky) day — because he finally got his flu shot.