The good news is required immunizations are back in stock at local health departments after months of shortage. The bad news is the shots may smart a little bit more this year for parents with private insurance, at least at first.
The hundreds of required booster shots that were deferred earlier, on top of the usual back-to-school crunch of children, means it is even more critical this year to get shots early this summer, said Jane Oglesby, the facility administrator for the Richmond County Health Department.
"It's going to be an interesting school rush season this year," said Mrs. Oglesby, whose department is bringing back in those whose booster shots were deferred. "What we're asking is that parents not wait until the last minute because we do give those immunizations Monday through Friday. In August, its going to be really bad."
The immunization shortage, particularly with tetanus-diphtheria, was sparked in part when one of the two U.S. manufacturers, Wyeth Lederle, decided to halt production last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The shortage of those shots was so bad at one point that the only way to get them "was in the event of a serious injury," Mrs. Oglesby said.
Increased production has eased the shortage and the addition of a a vaccine called Daptacel that provides immunity to pertussis, said Dr. David Freeman of Pediatric Partners of Augusta.
Because no diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine is approved for children older than 6, it is important to get children in for boosters before then to make sure they have the immunity to pertussis later in life, said Dr. Christopher White, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
Unlike past years, the health departments in Augusta and the surrounding health district will have to ask parents whose private insurance covers immunizations to pay for the shots upfront, Mrs. Oglesby said. That is the case throughout the state because of budget cuts, said Deborah Jelks, the assistant program manager in the Georgia Immunization Program.
"We don't have the state funds anymore," she said.
To get your child started early on required immunizations, call the county health department.
In Richmond County, call the Laney-Walker Boulevard office at 721-5800 or the south Augusta office at 790-0661. In Columbia County, call the Appling office at 541-1318, the Harlem office at 556-3727 or the Martinez-Evans office at 868-3330.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.