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Health Dept. offers Saturday clinics for H1N1

COVINGTON - The East Metro Health District has announced health department clinics in Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to offer the H1N1 influenza vaccine.

"We understand that people are busy during the week and often find it difficult to come to one of our clinics during regular business hours," said Suleima Salgado, public information officer for the district. "We hope our Saturday clinics will meet the needs of the community and make the vaccine available to those who are interested."

Salgado said the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine is being offered to healthy people ages 2 to 49, although the primary focus at this time is on making sure healthy children ages 2 to 4 receive the vaccine.

She cautioned that persons who have been immunized with a live virus in the past 30 days cannot receive the H1N1 nasal spray, nor can pregnant women.

Salgado said all clinics in the East Metro Health District have an adequate supply of the vaccine.

"We have been told that shipments will continue to arrive," she said.

Salgado said officials were unsure when injectable vaccine will be available to the public.

"We currently do not know when we will receive our first shipment of injectable vaccine. We have been told it's coming, we just don't know how quickly. It could be tomorrow. It could be a week. We are just taking it on a day-by-day basis," she said. "Once we receive the injectable vaccine, we will provide it to those outlined by the population-based guidelines provided by the CDC."

The popularity of the Saturday hours will determine if they will become a regular feature for the health department clinics.

"Based on the availability of the vaccine and the demand from the community, we will determine how frequently we will host Saturday clinics in the future," Salgado said.

No appointment is necessary for the Saturday clinic and the vaccine is free, although clients are requested to bring their Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance cards with them.

The H1N1 influenza vaccine is also available at all East Metro Health District department clinics Mondays through Fridays.

For more information, call the Newton County clinic at 770-786-9086 or the Rockdale County clinic at 770-785-5936.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.