No flu shot for millions of Georgians - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

No flu shot for millions of Georgians

October 6, 2004

Albany-- A massive vaccine shortage is forcing public health officials to stop healthy people from getting vaccinated, and the precious vaccine will be given only to those considered high risk.

If you're healthy, chances are you won't be able to get a flu shot this year. Georgia, and the rest of the nation, are facing a huge flu vaccine shortage.

Thirty-six-thousand people in the United States die from complications from the flu each year, but millions of people won't be able to get the flu vaccine this year. "There clearly are a number of people who will benefit from the flu vaccine, and I'm afraid will not have access this year," says Public Health Director Paul Newell.

"We're sorry. Please understand there is a shortage of this vaccines and we're having to observe very strictly these guidelines."

Georgia public health was expected to receive more than 213,000 doses of the flu vaccine from British flu maker Chiron. But, the government stopped the company from shipping 48 million doses of the vaccine to the U.S. Now, state public health has only 413,000 doses.

"In public health, we got 40% of what we had anticipated in southwest Georgia," says Public Health Director Dr. Paul Newell.

Luckily, the southwest Georgia public health district also ordered 10,000 doses from another drug maker. "We had already administered 4,000 of our 10,000 doses. So, now we're having to reprioritize."

And certain people top the priority list for vaccination. Infants 6 months to 23 months, people over 65, anyone with a chronic medical condition, pregnant women, and health care workers are the only people allowed to get a flu shot under new government guidelines.

"It is our responsibility to protect ourselves as much as possible against the flu," says Newell.

It's more important than ever to take steps to lower the risk of catching the flu, cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. Wash for about 15 seconds, long enough to sing "Happy Birthday." Use anti-bacterial hand wipes and gel sanitizers when you can't wash your hands, and avoid other sick people.

The Southwest Georgia public health district, which includes 14 counties, only has 6,000 doses to give to the 360,000 people in this area.

posted at 4:45PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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