Large shipment swells H1N1 vaccine inventory
Target populations most at risk of Pandemic H1N1 influenza who haven’t gotten vaccinated against it should take advantage of the arrival of more than 16,000 doses of hard-to-find H1N1 vaccine in Southwest Georgia, says the region’s top Public Health official.
“The 14-county health departments in the District have received shipments of H1N1 vaccine in both the injectable form and in the nasal form,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Jacqueline Grant. “We also have thimerosal-free formula on hand for those who prefer not to use vaccine with the preservative in it.”
Decatur County’s allotment was 1,300 doses.
Grant said shipments began arriving early Monday.
“We’ll be watching the public’s response to see if demand is high,” she said. “If the state doesn’t see much demand by the target populations, steps will begin to open it up to others who want the vaccine.”
Although the pandemic seems to be slowing—with fewer cases being reported in Georgia and nationally—residents should remain on guard.
“What we typically see in a pandemic are a series of waves,” Grant explained. “Our concern is that holiday gatherings and travel will give the influenza virus a chance to infect more people and trigger another wave.”
While most people who catch H1N1 recover at home without medical treatment, the pandemic has claimed around 4,000 lives in the United States, including nearly 600 child fatalities, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We don’t know why this virus is mild in some people and causes severe illness in others, but we do know which groups are most at risk of complications,” Grant said. “They are the priority populations slated to get the initial doses of H1N1 vaccine. We hope those who haven’t gotten vaccinated because the vaccine was so scarce or because they were waiting for the injectable vaccine will take advantage of the ample supply currently on hand in Southwest Georgia’s county health departments.”
She said some health departments are planning to offer extended-hour H1N1 clinics next Thursday to accommodate the needs of people who can’t get away during the work day for vaccinations.
“The clinics will be open until at least 7:30 p.m.,” Grant said. “You should check with your county health department first to make sure it is offering the extended-hours clinic.”
As more vaccine becomes available, additional H1N1 clinics—including school-located vaccinations–may be offered, she said. H1N1 vaccine is free, although administration fees may be charged to Medicaid or Medicare.
Private providers are offering H1N1 vaccinations. Some of them agreed to be listed on the State Department of Community Health’s Web Page, www.health.state.ga.us/h1n1.
The CDC identified the five target groups first in line to receive H1N1 vaccine as:
Health care and emergency medical personnel
People who live with or care for infants younger than six months
Anyone from six months to 24 years old
Anyone aged 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for flu-related complications
More information is available by calling local county health departments, by going online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or by calling the District’s toll-free Flu Hotline at 800-829-2255.