The Barrow County Health Department has received 500 doses of the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine and will begin distributing the doses next week according to Barrow County Nurse Manager Susan Kristal.
“This is just the start,” said Kristal. “There is going to be plenty of vaccine.”
The health department will hold an H1N1 clinic on Wednesday, October 14 to distribute the spray vaccine. The clinic will be held from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The vaccine will be available for children within a certain age range and meeting certain health criteria.
“The target population is from two to four years old,” Kristal said. “It needs to be a healthy two to four year old. Because this is a live vaccine, this is not the version you take if you are not healthy.”
Kristal said her department will begin notifying day care providers over the next few days to make sure parents of children within the target range are aware of the vaccine availability. For children in the targeted population, a second dose will be required.
The live, attenuated intranasal vaccine (LAIV) is sprayed into the nose. The vaccine does not contain thimerosal or other preservatives. It is indicated for use in patients ages two to 49. The vaccine contains a weakened virus that will not cause illness.
The 2009 H1N1 LAIV should not be given to children younger than two or adults older than 50. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, people with a weakened immune system, asthma sufferers or people with certain muscle or nerve disorders such as cerebral palsy.
The vaccine should not be administered to anyone with long term health problems such as heart, liver, kidney, lung, metabolic or blood disorders. Children or adolescents on long term aspirin treatment should not be inoculated with LAIV.
Anyone in close contact with a person who has a severely weakened immune system should not be vaccinated with the LAIV.
People who have experienced a life threatening allergic reaction after a seasonal flu vaccine or have ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome should inform their doctor of these conditions before receiving the vaccine.
Kristal said people outside the target population for the initial vaccine distribution will have the opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as more supplies are delivered.
Kristal has not yet been notified when the injectable vaccine will be available.
“What we have been told is that once the target population gets this particular vaccine, that the injectables will be following it,” she said. Though initial projections called for a mid-October distribution, Kristal is uncertain if that target will be met.
“I don’t think people really know how the distribution is being released,” she said. “We’re just being notified when we are notified.”
Despite apparent delays in the delivery of the vaccine, Kristal is confident that everyone who wishes to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to do so over the next few months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza activity remains widespread throughout much of the country. Georgia is one of 27 states reporting a high number of cases. Widespread influenza activity is considered very unusual for this time of year.
“In Barrow County and throughout much of the Southeast, influenza activity is widespread and it has been widespread for months now,” Kristal said.
Almost all cases of reported influenza involve the H1N1 virus. So far, the virus remains similar to the strain selected for the vaccine. The virus is susceptible to treatment with oseltamivir and zanamivir in the majority of cases.
While hospitalization rates due to influenza are higher than expected for this time of year, the CDC reports that deaths attributable to influenza are at normal levels. However, 60 pediatric deaths related to H1N1 have been reported to the CDC since April of this year. Eleven deaths were reported within the past week.
As of September 8, 438 people had been hospitalized with H1N1 in Georgia. Nine Georgians have died from the virus. Four of those deaths were reported between September 3 and September 8.
Kristal emphasized that cases to date have been mostly mild.
“Most people are not having a difficult time,” she said. “We do know that in some instances, healthy people are not having mild cases.”
Kristal said for that reason, health care officials are working hard to make sure the targeted populations are vaccinated.
“What makes H1N1 different from the seasonal flu is that it is targeting young people,” Kristal said.
Kristal said vaccinating pregnant women and children remains the top priority and the health department will adhere to CDC guidelines for administering the vaccine.
The H1N1 clinic will be held at the Barrow County Health Department located at 233 East Broad Street in Winder. There is no charge for the vaccination, but, in certain cases, an administrative fee may be assessed. For more information, call 770-307-3011.