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Vaccine supply is improving

ALBANY -- Initially, H1N1 vaccine doses were being distributed to people within targeted priority groups. Now officials say the vaccine is more readily available to those outside those specific populations.

"The H1N1 vaccine supply is getting better and better," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. "It is becoming available to more and more people.

"We are working hard to get the vaccine in the path of people who want it."

More than 100 million doses have become available for order in the Unites States. Approximately 60 million people have been inoculated so far.

In a news conference Tuesday, Schuchat, like her fellow health officials, stressed that now is not the time to become complacent.

"Less virus is circulating, but it's not gone at all," she said. "It is very important not to become complacent. Influenza is still out there.

"This is a time to make sure you and those you love are being protected."

Due to their increased vulnerability, the younger population was one of the groups initially targeted for the vaccine. Up until now, the inoculation coverage has included twice as much children as adults.

"We're targeting children because they have been so hard hit," Schuchat said.

To achieve full immunity to the virus, health experts are recommending children under the age of 10 be given two doses roughly a month apart.

"They do need to get a second dose, and we highly recommend it," Schuchat said. "We strongly believe two doses are needed for children under 10."

Schuchat also stressed at the news conference that there have been no safety issues associated with the H1N1 vaccine so far.

"We intensified our safety monitoring and are not seeing any adverse signs," she said. "(The vaccine recall last week) was not related to safety."

Officials say a few more doses remain locally of the seasonal flu vaccine with more possibly coming.

"It will be spotty from place to place," Schuchat said. "The vast majority has been used."

In Southwest Georgia, efforts are ongoing to administer the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines to the public with ample supply still available.

"People have been trickling in," said Brenda Greene, deputy director of the Southwest Public Health District. "We would like to see more people coming in."

There have been no recent deaths associated with the H1N1 flu in Southwest Georgia.

Officials with the district are currently evaluating the need to conduct clinics in the area's schools based on surveys that were distributed to parents prior to the holiday break.