If you are considering getting the H1N1 vaccination but aren’t sure where to go, the Georgia Department of Community Health has made it a lot easier to get the immunization you are seeking.
Meanwhile, national health officials have warned the vaccine could become scarce, and many health experts are alarmed at the number of children who are becoming seriously ill and dying from the virus, also known as swine flu.
The Georgia agency has recently launched the H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Provider Locator Web site. The site allows visitors to find a provider within a 2- to 30-mile radius of the specified ZIP code.
“I am encouraged by the questions that parents, caregivers and doctors are asking about the 2009 H1N1 flu and the 2009 H1N1 vaccine,” said
Rhonda Medows, Georgia Health officer and Georgia Department of Community Health commissioner.
“Georgia’s enhanced H1N1 Web page and the H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Provider Locator will make it easier for Georgians to get the answers to those questions and locate a provider that will be offering the 2009 H1N1 vaccine in their facility.”
Although the site provides a list of providers and their contact information, community health officials are urging residents to call the provider to double check the availability of the vaccine.
Currently, only the nasal mist vaccine is available locally.
“We are still waiting on the injectable vaccine,” said Dave Palmer, District 2 Public Health spokesman. "We will provide the nasal mist type vaccine to any eligible person in the priority groups designated by the CDC, concentrating on preschool and school-aged children."
District 2 includes Forsyth and 12 other counties in northeast Georgia.
“CDC priority groups also include healthy persons from 2 to 49 years of age that care for children less than 6 months of age and health care workers that provide direct patient care," Palmer said. "Pregnant women are in the priority group, but cannot take the nasal mist vaccine. They will be concentrated on once we get the (H1N1) flu shots.”
According to Palmer, the health department hopes to have the H1N1 vaccine shots available “soon.”
Health officials across the country warned last week that supplies of vaccine will remain scarce for at least the next couple of weeks.
Delays in producing the vaccine mean 28 million to 30 million doses, at most, will be divided around the country by the end of the month, not the 40 million-plus states had been expecting.
The new count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means planned flu shot clinics in some parts of the U.S. may have to be postponed.
It also delays efforts to blunt increasing infections. Overall, what the CDC calls the 2009 H1N1 flu is causing widespread disease in 41 states, and about 6 percent of all doctor visits are for flu-like illness — levels not normally seen until much later in the fall.
Health officials also are noting a worrisome number of child deaths as H1N1 begins hitting the United States.
Federal health officials said 11 more children have died in the past week because of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about half of the child deaths since September have been among teenagers.
And overall for the country, deaths from pneumonia and flu-like illnesses have passed what CDC considers an epidemic level.
“These are very sobering statistics,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.
This new strain is different from regular winter flu because it strikes the young far more than the old, and child deaths are drawing particular attention.
Eighty-six children have died of swine flu in the U.S. since it burst on the scene last spring — 43 of those deaths reported in September and early October alone, Schuchat said.
That’s a startling number because in some past winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season, she said, and no one knows how long this swine flu outbreak will last.
Also in contrast to regular winter flu, swine flu sometimes can cause a severe viral pneumonia in otherwise healthy young adults, the World Health Organization warned.