If you visit one of Ohio County's mass swine flu inoculation clinics this fall, don't be alarmed if the person giving your shot does so bare-handed.
Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said there is no requirement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandating gloves for those delivering vaccines in a clinic.
The Intelligencer received several telephone calls Wednesday regarding a photo published in Tuesday's edition. In that photo, a health department nurse is administering a seasonal flu vaccine to a patient without gloves.
At left, a nurse administers a flu shot while using gloves. At right, a picture that ran in Tuesday’s edition of The Intelligencer shows a nurse at the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administering a flu shot without gloves. Several callers to The Intelligencer expressed concern that the nurse was not using gloves.
Gamble praised those callers' awareness, but said they have no reason to be concerned as inoculations are relatively non-invasive.
Wearing gloves "is not necessary in a clinic setting," Gamble said, noting gloves are only required when dealing with invasive injuries or procedures. "... If you were in an (emergency room) or are (a paramedic), you should be wearing them."
Still, Gamble said, infection control is a priority at such clinics. He said nurses must wash their hands between each patient, and there is plenty of hand sanitizer available.
Gamble pointed out that for this fall's mass swine flu inoculation clinics, Ohio County alone would have to purchase 50,000 pairs of gloves to be fully prepared, which he said would be a major expense. "It's a big decision for each health department," he said.
He noted gloves likely will be available for vaccinators who want to use them during the swine flu clinics.
Gamble added that procedures are different for other services presenting a higher chance of contact with body fluids such as family planning clinics, pregnancy tests, breast/cervical cancer screenings and tuberculosis clinics. "On some of those clinics, yes, we do have to wear gloves between patients," said Gamble.
Local infection control experts recommend the use of personal protective equipment when there is a potential for blood-borne pathogen exposure, but note it's not necessary if there's no contact with blood.
Mass inoculation clinics in Ohio County are planned for Wheeling, Triadelphia and Warwood middle schools; The Linsly School; Wheeling Park High School; West Virginia Northern Community College; Wheeling Jesuit University; West Liberty University; and WesBanco Arena.
Gamble said while the initial round of clinics will be available only to five groups - pregnant women, health care workers, those between the ages of 6 months and 25 years and those 25-64 years old who have chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems - he expects the vaccine to be offered to everyone eventually. The health department will set dates for those clinics after receiving its share of the vaccine, expected sometime this month.