San Diego

More Than 150 Seniors Get Free Hepatitis A Vaccine Amid Outbreak in San Diego

Seniors should take the vaccine very seriously because they are a high-risk group, according to the nonprofit that provided the vaccines.

More than 150 seniors received free Hepatitis A vaccines at a clinic in East Village Thursday, amid one of the worst outbreaks in San Diego County history.

The local nonprofit, Serving Seniors, offered the vaccines to seniors at no charge, following warnings from health experts that the outbreak may continue for up to six months and claim more victims.

Thursday morning, the Serving Seniors' center located on 525 14th Street provided the free shots between 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. According to Serving Seniors, they received overwhelming demand from seniors to get the shot after their first free vaccination event a few weeks ago.

They plan to offer the second part of the vaccination to seniors at no cost in spring 2018, Serving Seniors officials said. Protection from the disease kicks in within a couple weeks after receiving the vaccine. Immunity lasts for 20 years to life following the second dose.

Serving Senior officials said seniors should take the vaccine very seriously because they are a high-risk group. Hepatitis A is extremely transferable and potentially deadly to seniors and others with compromised immune systems.

The nonprofit will continue serving seniors with ongoing education, internal protocols, vaccines and sanitization stations.

San Diego County health officials declared a local public health emergency on Sept. 1. As of Sept. 26, seventeen people have died and 461 cases of Hepatitis A have been confirmed in San Diego County. There were 315 hospitalizations out of those cases.

Health care providers have given more than 42,000 hepatitis vaccinations as of Sept. 23, according to the organization. That marks an increase from nearly 23,000 about a week ago.

The most common ways to get Hepatitis A are close contact with an infected person, exposure to contaminated food or drink or eating shellfish harvested from sewage-infested water.

It takes two to seven weeks for the illness to start showing symptoms after exposure, organization officials said. The vaccines were offered in collaboration with the County of San Diego.

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