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SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea personnel have begun receiving H1NI flu vaccinations, with the goal of immunizing all military and Department of Defense civilians by Thanksgiving.

The first shipment of the 54,000 vaccines arrived this week, and the remainder should arrive by next week, said Col. Jeff Clark, 65th Medical Brigade commander.

Airmen at Osan and Kunsan air bases began receiving their immunizations on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, and nearly all airmen were expected to receive vaccines by the end of the week.

Army bases will begin distributing the vaccines on Sunday, when medical facilities will be open to give the vaccine. Clark said the Nov. 8 vaccinations are meant for those in high-risk categories — pregnant women, children, teenagers and those with chronic medical conditions — though no DOD personnel or family members will be turned away. Immunizations are available only in the injectable form.

Army medical clinics will also have extended weekday hours through Thanksgiving to give the vaccines. Dependents and DOD civilians at Osan could begin receiving immunizations next week, after child and additional adult vaccines arrive, said spokesman Col. Bob Schwarze.

Servicemembers are required to receive the vaccine by Nov. 25, and most will do so with their units, Clark said. Children under 9, who are supposed to receive two doses of the vaccine, will be able to receive a second shot in about four weeks, he said.

Clark said 372 USFK personnel and dependents have reported catching swine flu. The cases were evenly spread across age and geography, and most were mild, with people reporting less severe symptoms than with the seasonal flu.

South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Wednesday that 45 people in the country have died after contracting H1N1, a day after the government raised the national epidemic alert to “red,” its highest level. Hundreds of schools remained closed because of swine flu, and the government halted training for reserve soldiers until the end of the month to prevent the virus from spreading, Yonhap reported.

Clark said those who contract the flu should stay home, treat their symptoms as they would for the regular seasonal flu, and not return to work until 24 hours after their symptoms have disappeared.

Where to goThe swine flu vaccine will be available 1-6 p.m. Sunday at the Brian Allgood Community Hospital, and medical facilities at camps Casey, Stanley, Red Cloud and Walker, and U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys.

From Nov. 9-25, clinics at Brian Allgood Community Hospital, Casey, Walker and Humphreys will give the vaccine during regular hours, and extended 4-6 p.m. hours, excluding Veterans Day and weekends.

Due to the ongoing operational readiness exercise, airmen at Osan Air Base can receive vaccinations at any hour of the day until 3 p.m. Friday. Shots will be given during normal duty hours starting Monday. Immunization times for dependents and DOD civilians have not been announced yet.

— Stars and Stripes

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