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Counties receive doses of swine-flu vaccine

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

County health officials in the area have received their first batches of vaccine for the swine flu.

Health departments across Georgia began receiving a limited supply of the novel, Type-A H1N1 influenza vaccine on Monday. The Henry County Health Department received 1,200 doses of the H1N1 nasal-mist vaccine Tuesday afternoon, according to Henry County Nurse Manager Jill Bolton.

By Wednesday afternoon, however, the health department had administered only one H1N1 vaccination - to a toddler, Bolton added.

"We don't really expect a real big rush yet," she said. "I'm expecting the rush to come as the weather starts cooling off."

The nasal mist - the active-virus vaccine available now - is currently targeted toward healthy 2- to 4-year-olds.

"We want to protect our children," said Bolton. "They're at the greatest risk for mortality from this virus."

She said children with asthma, with egg allergies, or chronic health issues, are discouraged from getting the first round of vaccine in nasal-mist form because the vaccine contains the live H1N1 virus.

"While we are focusing on healthy 2- to 4-year-olds with this initial shipment, Georgians can be assured that additional vaccine doses, including the inactivated, injectable form, will be made available over the next several weeks as states continue to receive shipments of the H1N1 vaccine," said Georgia Department of Community Health Commissioner Rhonda Medows.

Medows said the nasal-spray version of the H1N1 vaccine can be used by healthy people ages 2 to 49, and women who are not pregnant.

"We hope that people will heed the message as far as getting the vaccine and protecting themselves and their families against H1N1," said Veronda Griffin, spokeswoman for the Clayton County Board of Health.

Griffin said the Clayton County Board of Health received 1,700 doses of the H1N1 vaccine Monday, and will begin administering the vaccine today. No appointment will be needed to get the vaccine, she added.

According to health officials, the H1N1 vaccine will be provided free of charge by the federal government at Public Health clinics, although administration fees may be charged to Medicaid, Medicare, and some insurance companies. Officials encourage patients to bring their health-insurance cards with them at the time of their visit.

Health officials stress that people cannot get the flu by taking the vaccine, though the nasal-mist vaccine sometimes produces mild side effects. The most common side effects, according to health officials, are runny nose, wheezing, nasal congestion and fever.

Officials warn, however, that the 2009 H1N1 vaccine will not protect a person from the seasonal flu.

Seasonal-flu vaccine supplies are dwindling fast this year, according to Bolton.

Bolton said the Henry County Health Department has administered more than 1,200 doses of the seasonal-flu vaccine since it began administering it on Sept. 28. About 600 doses are left, she said. "People are more aware and want to start early," she said.

Bolton said residents can visit the Henry County Health Department in McDonough for a vaccination without an appointment. However, those wanting a vaccination at the health department's Stockbridge location must make an appointment.

The Henry County Health Department's McDonough location is open from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but will be closed Monday, Oct. 12, in observance of Columbus Day.

Henry County residents can reach the McDonough office, located at 135 Henry Parkway in McDonough, at (770) 288-6136, or the Stockbridge office, located at 1020 Hospital Drive in Stockbridge, at (770) 389-7887.

Clayton County residents can reach the Clayton County Board of Health, located at 1117 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro, at (678) 610-7369.

The Board of Health will be open Monday through Friday, from 8:15 a.m., to 4 p.m., with the exception of the upcoming Columbus Day observance on Monday.