H1N1 vaccine available in GA; soon in SC

Vaccine against the new influenza A H1N1 virus is in Georgia and is coming to South Carolina as the first 2.2 million doses roll out to the states and make their way to local health clinics, a process that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today would likely be “bumpy” and “messy.”

The vaccine has not yet reached counties in the Augusta area but is expected this week, an official with the East Central Health District said. Health officials are also concerned about fears people have of the new vaccine and the hesitancy of some to get it, fears they are trying to address, said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.

About 2.2 million of the 2.4 million doses have been ordered by states and more is expected to become available on a daily and weekly basis, Dr. Frieden said. The first doses are an intranasal vaccine that is only approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49 but injectable vaccine is expected next week, Dr. Frieden said. Vaccine is shipped out as soon as it comes off the production line to one of four distribution centers run by McKesson Co. and some will be shipped directly to larger providers who order more than 100 shots as well as the state health departments.

“It is a very big and complex undertaking,” Dr. Frieden said. “It’s a little bit of a messy process and we expect it to be somewhat bumpy in the first few weeks.”

However, “it will be widely available in the next few weeks,” he said.

The Augusta health district will likely send its first doses out to the larger county health departments so that they can set up vaccination clinics, first in children ages 2 to 4 years old, said Children Health and Immunization Coordinator Melba McNorrill.

Aiken County’s two health department locations should have the H1N1 vaccine available as early as Wednesday, said Adam Myrick, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The vaccine will be administered at the Aiken County and North Augusta health departments and at some private health care providers.

Richmond County schools are expecting to have school-based clinics for the new vaccine around the end of October in the same way they offered seasonal flu shots recently, said spokesman Louis Svehla.

Other priority groups for the new vaccine established by the CDC include:

- Pregnant women;

- Health care workers;

- Infants, children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years old;

- People with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes ages 25 years and up;

- Caregivers and household contacts of infants under the age of 6 months because those infants cannot receive flu vaccine.

For those who don’t fall into those categories, however, they will likely be able to get the H1N1 vaccine later, Dr. Frieden said.

“We’re very confident that there will be plenty of vaccine for everyone who

wants to be vaccinated,” he said. The government has ordered 195 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

Dr. Frieden also sought to allay fears about the safety of the new vaccine, noting that it is made in the exact same way as seasonal flu vaccine by the same companies and there is a long safety record for that process.

“With the production of this vaccine, we have cut no corners,” he said. The safety of the H1N1 vaccine “ is something that we have a high degree of confidence in,” Dr. Frieden said.

Staff Writers Stephanie Toone and Preston Sparks contributed to this report

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