Health officials continue to urge H1N1 vaccination

Health officials are urging Georgia residents to continue to seek vaccination against the H1N1 influenza virus.

Most of the flu viruses which have been identified this flu season have been the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, according to Rhonda Medows, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health.

"New estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that flu activity is already higher than what is seen during the peak of many regular flu seasons," Medows said in a statement earlier this week.

"In the past, flu pandemics hit a peak, stabilize and then often times peak again ... Even though flu activity may slow, and a smaller number of Georgians are catching the flu virus, it is especially important if you are in a high-risk group to get vaccinated against the 2009 H1N1 flu," Medows said.

The Georgia Department of Community Health also reported this week that vaccine demand in some parts of Georgia may outweigh vaccine supply.

Medows said, however, that the state will continue to make the vaccine available to residents as vaccine manufacturers and the CDC produce and distribute the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.

"Although vaccine supply still remains below what was anticipated for this point in time, supply is beginning to stabilize in comparison with demand," said Public Health Communications Manager Ravae Graham.

The demand for the H1N1 vaccine has diminished among the high-risk, priority groups, but remains high among those outside of the high-risk groups, added Graham. For instance, the demand within the elderly population, people 65 years old and older, has been greater than anticipated, despite not being a high-risk group.

As a result, she said, the Georgia Department of Community Health relaxed its previous restrictions for the H1N1 vaccinations on Dec. 4, to provide the vaccine to anyone 6 months and older.

The department is still targeting individuals who may be deemed at highest risk, she added. Those individuals include: children 6 months through 24 years of age; women who are pregnant; those ages 25 to 64 with chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma; people who care for infants less than 6 months of age; and health-care providers.

Residents can get vaccinated any time during the flu season to get protection from the H1N1 flu virus. The 2009 H1N1 vaccine is free. Administrative fees may be applied by individual health-care providers who administer the vaccinations, continued Graham.

To learn more about flu prevention, call 1-888-H1N1-INFO (1-888-4161-4636), or visit the Georgia Department of Community Health web site.

On the net:

Georgia Department of Community Health: http://health.state.ga.us/h1n1flu