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H1N1 vaccine supply limited
Priority goes to those at high risk
flu shots nasal jd
Luke Ratliff watches brother Jake receive the H1N1 nasal flu vaccine Wednesday from nurse Erin Waters. - photo by Jim Dean
Health officials encourage only those identified as a high-risk priority to get the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccination, of which Forsyth County has a limited supply.

At the top of the Centers for Disease Control's list are pregnant women, 6-month-olds to 24-year-olds, and caregivers or people who live with infants 6 months old or younger.

The list also includes health care and emergency patient care workers and people ages 25 to 64 with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, respiratory conditions, heart disease and immuno-suppressive disorders.

“We understand that many people outside of these priority groups want the vaccine,” said Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health, which includes Forsyth and 12 other northeast Georgia counties.

“We ask that if people don’t fall into one of these groups, that they wait and allow these groups that are more vulnerable to the illness to get their shots first.”

Swine flu is a form of Type A influenza. While there have been some reports of seasonal flu nationwide, the majority of recent flu cases have been the H1N1 strain.

As of Oct. 27, there had been 601 hospitalizations for H1N1 and 33 deaths in Georgia, according to state statistics.

By the end of the day Wednesday, more than 200 H1N1 shots had been given to Forsyth County residents.

The 1,100-dose shipment, which arrived Tuesday, was the second the local health department has received and the first delivery of shots.

The first shipment was the nasal mist vaccine, which is primarily used for health care workers and healthy children.

Forsyth’s health department has requested 38,000 doses of the vaccine, but a national shortage has resulted in rationing.

In a press briefing Tuesday, CDC Director Tom Frieden said fewer than 32 million doses of the vaccine are available, far short of the 250 million the federal government bought.

“We know it’s not nearly as much as we would have liked,” Frieden said. “We know it’s frustrating, inconvenient and disruptive for people to try to get the vaccine and not be able to.”

Palmer said District 2 has no more seasonal flu vaccine, but there “has been very little seasonal flu activity so far this year.”

“So far, the H1N1 virus is continuing to circulate,” he said. “There has been a slight decrease in activity in Georgia, but it’s very slight ... maybe 2 percent.”

The CDC hopes more vaccines will be available each week. When this happens, Palmer said, officials will “broaden the offering of the vaccine.”

“The unfortunate thing is we don’t know when we’re going to get the next shipment or how much we’ll get,” he said.

“As we get a quantity that’s sufficient to give out to a broader population, then we’ll make an announcement that we have the vaccine available.”