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Health Department to extend hours Thursday

On Thursday, Nov. 12, all 14 county health departments in Southwest Health District plan to remain open after regular working hours to dispense free H1N1 vaccine to individuals in the priority groups most at risk of developing complications from the novel influenza virus.

“As long as a health department has even one dose of H1N1 vaccine left, it will remain open until at least 7:30 p.m. on Thursday,” Southwest Health District Deputy Director Brenda Greene said. “If you are in a target group, we encourage you to get the vaccine now, while it is available. We don’t know when we will receive more shipments.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the District had approximately 400 doses of nasal spray vaccine and slightly less than 200 doses of injectable vaccine.

Greene said since the supply is decreasing steadily, it is best to call beforehand to ensure your health department hasn’t run out.

Priority groups recommended to receive H1N1 nasal spray vaccine include:

 Healthy children 2 to 24;

 People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age;

 Health care and emergency services personnel.

Priority groups recommended for H1N1 flu shots include:

 Pregnant women;

 Children six months through 4 years old;

 Children 5 to 18 with chronic medical conditions;

 Anyone 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for flu-related complications.

The vaccine is made by the same companies that produce seasonal flu vaccine, using the same processes. However, the H1N1 virus is slow-growing, so it is taking longer to produce H1N1 vaccine than was initially projected, she said.

“Vaccine-makers are shipping out batches as soon as they are ready,” Greene said. “Our expectation is that the next shipments in our area will probably go to health care providers such as pediatricians, OB-GYNs or others taking care of those facing the most risk from H1N1. But we have been told that eventually there will be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it.”

Until then, she asked that the public remain patient and take daily actions to stop the spread of infectious disease by:

 Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

 Washing your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

 Trying to avoid close contact with sick people.

 Staying home from work or school if sick.

 Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

More information on H1N1 is available online at www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org and www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ or by calling the District’s toll-free Flu Hotline at 800-829-2255.