H1N1 spray vaccination reaches area
6,500 doses available; kids ages 2 to 4 target of first batch

CONYERS - Public health department clinics in Rockdale and Newton counties will begin distributing the nasal spray vaccination Friday for the H1N1 flu without charge.

The East Metro Health District, which includes Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties, received 6,500 doses of the nasal spray vaccination this week as part of the initial shipment to Georgia.

The small shipment of H1N1 vaccination has caused Georgia health officials to announce they will focus this initial supply on healthy children age 2 to 4 years to reach a population that spreads the virus and is more at risk for hospitalization.

The nasal spray version of the H1N1 vaccine can be used by healthy people age 2 years to 49 years and non-pregnant women.

Suleima Salgado, public information officer of the East Metro Health District, reiterated the state's focus but added that health officials here will not turn people away from receiving the H1N1 vaccination.

"If a mother comes in with a 2-, 8- and a 10-year old, then we will not deny them," she said. "We will also vaccinate the 8-year-old and the 10-year-old."

Pregnant women, who are identified as a group recommended to receive the H1N1 virus, are advised to wait for the flu vaccine shot because of effects the nasal spray could have on the immune system.

Salgado said the local health department should get all the supplies it will need for the H1N1 flu virus, also referred to as the swine flu, by the end of this month. The nasal spray was offered first because it could be produced in larger quantities at a faster rate.

Salgado said there should be sufficient supplies of H1N1 vaccines available in nasal spray and shot form.

"We ask people to please be patient and call the clinics ahead of time to check on the vaccine's availability," Salgado said. "By the end of October, we should have enough H1N1 vaccination for everyone."

Salgado added that vaccinations for the seasonal flu are also available at the local health departments.

The H1N1 vaccine is provide free of charge on a first come, first served basis at all public health clinics, although administrative fees may be incurred to Medicaid and Medicare.

Private providers, such as pharmacies, personal physicians and for-profit medical clinics, will also be offering the H1N1 vaccinations as additional doses become available.

For more information on the seasonal or H1N1 flu, go to www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov or call the local health departments. Rockdale County residents can call 770-785-4345. Newton residents can call 770-786-9086.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

The nasal spray H1N1 vaccine will be available Friday at local health departments. Officials are focusing on healthy 2- to 4-year-old children with this first shipment.

The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to the following:

· Children who are receiving treatments containing aspirin;

· Children with a sensitivity to eggs, egg proteins, gentamicin, gelatin, or arginine or have had life-threatening reactions to previous influenza vaccinations;

· Children who are younger than 2 years old;

· Children with asthma or children less than 4 years old with recurrent wheezing;

· Children with health problems that predispose them to complications from flu;

· Children who have a muscle, nerve, or seizure disorder that could lead to breathing or swallowing problems;

· Children who have a weakened immune system.

Source: Georgia Department of Community Health