First H1N1 vaccines arrive

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The initial shipment of Pandemic H1N1 vaccine has been delivered across Georgia, but health officials are focusing their use on healthy small children for now, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

“Nasal-spray flu vaccine, also known as LAIV for ‘live attenuated influenza vaccine,’ is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu,” Grant said. “However, it is only for healthy people ages 2 to 49, so many high-risk residents must wait for the shot.”

At the top tier of priority groups for the swine flu vaccine are pregnant women; people caring for infants under six months old; health care workers who have direct patient contact; children from six months to 4 years of age and children 5 through 18 who have chronic medical conditions.

“For example, pregnant women are one of the highest priority groups for H1N1 vaccination, yet they should not receive the nasal-spray form of the vaccine,” said Grant. “Children with asthma, another high risk group, also should not take the nasal-spray vaccine.”

The reason the nasal-spray vaccine is available before the more widely used flu shot is because it doesn’t take as long to produce, she explained.

“By the end of October or beginning of November, we anticipate there will be ample supplies of H1N1 vaccine to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccination will be able to receive one,” Grant said.

Georgia’s initial shipment of 54,800 doses of H1N1 vaccine, being distributed to Public Health Districts, is earmarked for young children.

However, flu clinics—including school-located vaccinations—may be offered after the district receives sufficient quantities of flu vaccine later in the season, Grant said.

H1N1 vaccine is being provided free of charge by Public Health, although administration fees may be charged to Medicaid or Medicare. Private providers will also be offering H1N1 vaccinations. A list of private providers offering H1N1 vaccine to the public will be posted by the State Department of Community Health at www.health.state.ga.us/h1n1.