Concerns about contracting the novel influenza A H1N1 virus have created a higher demand for seasonal flu shots, some area health care professionals have noted. The demand, in some cases, has exceeded the number of doses available.
The Richmond County Health Department ran out of seasonal flu vaccines less than two weeks after administering the first dose, said clinical nursing director Teresa Catlett. The department has doled out 1,500 shots since flu clinics opened Sept. 21, Ms. Catlett said.
"Our demand has tripled this year compared to last year," she said. "Most people would not have received the shot until mid-October, but they are starting early this year."
In some cases, patients are experiencing flulike symptoms earlier this season, but much of the demand is due to a greater awareness of the virus, said Terrence Cook, an Augusta physician. The Georgia Division of Public Health has distributed the vaccine slowly and sparingly over the past couple of months in spite of the high demand, Dr. Cook said.
"They have sent a few bottles here, and a few bottles there," he said. "It's very unnerving."
Dr. Cook's office has administered 200 flu shots since late August, and was out of the vaccine for two weeks. About 100 doses were delivered Wednesday, but keeping a sufficient amount of the vaccine is still a concern, Dr. Cook said. "We thought we'd be safe by ordering a significant quantity, but we're not receiving nearly enough for our patients that we see."
The rush to create and distribute the H1N1 vaccine has put a delay on producing the seasonal flu vaccine, Ms. Catlett said. Though patients are concerned about H1N1, the demand for the seasonal flu vaccine still exists. Ms. Catlett said she is unsure when the state will deliver additional doses to the Augusta area.
"We've got 15 to 20 businesses on a waiting list to get flu shots," she said. "We have no idea when we will be able to give them out again."
Walgreens on Whiskey Road in Aiken had only 20 doses of the vaccine available by Wednesday afternoon, said pharmacist Susan Dougherty. The drugstore will receive a shipment of the vaccine by today. Mrs. Dougherty said she has administered more than 1,200 flu shots since Sept. 1.
"We give out about 50 to 60 shots per day," she said. "The response has been overwhelming this year versus last year."
The Walgreens pharmacy at 4380 Jefferson Davis Highway in Clearwater had only 40 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine left Wednesday night that had not been scheduled for appointments, said pharmacist Jim Riddle.
"We probably burn through 20 to 30 vaccines a day," Mr. Riddle said. "I'm told that once we're out, we're out for the season."
Kroger pharmacies in Augusta and Aiken have remained busy but continued to have the vaccine in stock. Alan Kaufman, pharmacist at the grocery store's Whiskey Road location, said between 20 and 40 flu shots are disbursed daily.
"We've administered a lot, because of the swine flu scare," he said. "We have plenty of shots available."
The Kroger pharmacy on Washington Road has not seen an influx of flu shot recipients, said pharmacist Christie Curry.
Gary Ikens, who received a flu shot at Walgreens on Wednesday, said he would have waited later in the month to get his annual flu shot, but he decided to take care of it earlier out of convenience.
"There's been so much publicity about (H1N1)," he said. "I think that's got people running out to get the shots."
Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or email@example.com.
FLU SHOTS IN THE AREA
In Aiken: 2191 Whiskey Road; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday
In Clearwater: 4380 Jefferson Davis Highway; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday
In Evans: 4310 Washington Road; limited supply available by walk-in or appointment
NORTH AUGUSTA HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Where: 802 E. Martintown Road, Suite 170
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 28
In Aiken: 1795 Whiskey Road; 2-4 p.m. Friday
In Augusta: 2801 Washington Road; times vary
In Evans: 4355 Washington Road; 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
In Martinez: 4115 Columbia Road; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday
AIKEN HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Where: Aiken Kalmia Mall Plaza, 1680 Richland Ave. West
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today, Oct. 15, Oct. 24
PARENTS OPPOSE SWINE FLU VACCINE
ATLANTA --- More than a third of parents don't want their kids to get the swine flu vaccine, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
Some parents say they are concerned about side effects -- even though nothing serious has turned up in tests -- and others say swine flu is no greater health threat than seasonal flu.
The AP poll found 38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school.
On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appealed for widespread inoculation against swine flu.
The AP poll, conducted Oct. 1-5, found 72 percent of those surveyed are worried about side effects.
Overall, only 52 percent of Americans say they're likely to get the vaccine.
-- Associated Press