As San Diego city and county works to get ahead of the deadly Hepatitis A outbreak, health officials are working to make sure patients know they need two doses of the hep A vaccine.
"The first shot is up to 90-95% effective," said Dr. Wilma Wooten with the County Department of Health and Human Services. "With the second dose, you get closer to 100%."
The second dose must be given no earlier than 6 months after the first. Because of that, getting that second dose to the high-risk, mobile homeless population has proven difficult.
The county is using a mix of old and new technology to solve the problem. They're issuing immunization cards to everyone that gets a vaccine, with reminder dates about when they'll need a 2nd shot. In addition, nurses in the field now have on-demand access to the San Diego Immunization Records.
"If we are with someone in the field and we find out they're due for the 2nd dose, we'll give it to them at that time," Wooten said.
To date, County records show that about 53,000 people have gotten the vaccine. There's no word on how many have gotten the 2nd dose. Since March, there have been 490 confirmed cases, resulting in 18 deaths and 342 hospitalizations.
Even with the need for a second dose, County Health officials are still focusing on the first shot right now.
"There is not a shortage, but we have a limited supply of the vaccine," said Wooten. "So we want to use that supply to target our high risk populations and make sure to get that first dose into as many arms as possible."
Right now, the people at the highest risk for getting Hep A are the homeless, illicit drug users and people who work with that population. In addition, the County says people with chronic liver disease or with Hepatitis B or C should also get the shot. They also advise any men who are in sexual relationships with other men to be immunized.
Beyond that, food service workers, especially ones downtown, have been strongly encouraged to get the shot.
Wooten said the county will do a full outreach project on second shot in the spring.