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Local demand light for swine flu vaccine

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The nasal-spray form of the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is available for free to Clayton County residents in good health, through the county's health department, but local demand for the vaccine has so far been minuscule, a Clayton County Board of Health spokesperson said this week.

The Clayton County Board of Health received 1,700 doses of the nasal-spray form of the swine flu vaccine at the beginning of the month, as manufacturers began releasing their first shipments. Clayton County Board of Health Spokesperson Veronda Griffin said much of that initial shipment is still available.

While the local health agency was initially reserving the vaccine for children between the ages of 2 and 4, because they fall in a high-risk age group, planning is under way for making the vaccine available to the broader Clayton County community, Griffin said.

"We have plenty of the nasal-spray form of the vaccine available," Griffin said. "The demand for the vaccine has actually been kind of slow so far. Only a few people are requesting it, but we're hoping the demand will pick up soon."

The nasal-spray vaccine is recommended for people in good health, Griffin said. People facing health conditions, such as women who are pregnant, or people with heart conditions, are urged to receive the injectable version of the vaccine, she added. The vaccinations are free, she said.

However, people facing health conditions will have to wait to receive the vaccine, according to Griffin. She said Thursday that the department had not yet received any of the injectable vaccine.

The Clayton County Board of Health is located at 1117 Battlecreek Road, in Jonesboro, and walk-in service is available between the hours of 8:15 a.m., and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Clayton County Board of Health can be reached at (678) 610-7199.

The news that the Clayton County Board of Health has a large supply of the vaccine comes at a time when news reports are emerging about vaccine shortages in other parts of the country.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden said 22.4 million doses of the vaccine are available for distribution, according to a transcript from the briefing.

In some parts of the country, the demand has been high, according to news reports from The Associated Press, prompting long lines in some states at places where the vaccine has been made available. Frieden pointed out that while only a little more than 20 million doses are now available, that is an improvement from a week ago, when only 14 million doses were ready for distribution.

"That's good news, not as soon as we would have liked it, but it does represent a significant advance," Frieden said.

Frieden urged people who are not in high-risk groups to hold off on seeking the vaccine, so people who need it more can receive it. The high-risk groups, he said, are infants, children and young adults up to the age of 24; health-care providers; people who work with children and young adults, such as teachers; and people with underlying health conditions.

"That's the focus now," Frieden said. "While others, I understand, want to get vaccinated, I think all of us can respect that the vaccine should be used first for those who will benefit most, those who are most at risk."

But, one high-risk group in Clayton County -- college students -- still can't get the vaccine where they attend classes.

Health officials at Clayton State University's University Health Services office are still waiting to receive either the nasal, or the injectable form of the vaccine. University Health Services Director Dr. Julia Spinolo said Wednesday that a shipment of "thousands" of doses of the vaccine were expected to arrive at the beginning of the month, but none of the vaccine has come.

Spinolo said she has received no indication from the CDC as to when the university will receive any doses, or why they have not received the vaccine.

"We were told we would receive the vaccine earlier this month, but I think the demand was far greater than they expected it to be," Spinolo said. "We ordered thousands of doses, but I think with the demand, it's probably likely that we'll only receive 200 or so doses of the vaccine."

The university has an enrollment of 6,594 students this fall, according to figures released by the university on the eve of its 40th birthday last month.

Spinolo expressed uncertainty as to whether the school will receive the nasal form, or the injectable form of the vaccine. She said University Health Services had requested both forms, but was unsure which will shipped.

"Once we get it, we'll know what we've got," Spinolo said. "We may only get the nasal form of the vaccine, or we may only get the injectable form. We may get both. We'll know what we've got when we open the box [containing the doses] and look inside."

Anyone who is looking for the swine flu vaccine can log onto the Georgia Division of Public Health's web site, health.state.ga.us/ and use a vaccine locator to find the nearest provider.

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On the net:

Clayton County Board of Health: www.claytoncountypublichealth.org

Georgia Division of Public Health: http://health.state.ga.us

CDC: www.cdc.gov