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Vaccine supply nearly depleted

ALBANY -- Nearly a month after the nasal spray form of the H1N1 vaccine came to Southwest Georgia, officials had still not seen a desirable response from the public.

Now that its injectable counterpart is available, county health departments are finding themselves scraping the bottom of the supply barrel.

"We feel this week we have really stepped up (on vaccine distribution)," said Southwest Public Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

Roughly 2,500 doses of the injectable form arrived in Southwest Georgia earlier this week. Inoculations started Wednesday. On Thursday, the district's 14 county health departments held extended-hour clinics to administer vaccinations to priority groups most at risk for complications -- and saw an overwhelming response.

The reaction from the public was somewhat different when the H1N1 nasal midst vaccine arrived. The spray arrived in the region in early October, with a total of 1,900 doses in the first shipment. There were still 1,500 doses on hand throughout the district three weeks after the fact.

Officials have some theories as to why the response was different.

"We think people were waiting for the injectable," Grant said. "The H1N1 nasal vaccine can only be given to healthy individuals ages 2 to 49. (Arrival of the injectable vaccine) opened up a pool

of people."

Those waiting for the injections may have also done so because they were less comfortable with the vaccine in its nasal spray form, Grant explained. The injected version contains dead virus, while the spray version has weakened, live H1N1 virus.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 500 doses of the injectable and 750 doses of the nasal spray vaccine left in the district. Additional supply is continually being redistributed to individual county health departments, but more supply will have to come in soon to avoid an interruption of service, Grant said.

"At the rate we are giving them out, if we don't get more (doses) in next week or two, we will run out," she said.

Grant added that there is no word yet on when additional supplies might arrive.

People interested in receiving the vaccine are encouraged to call their county health departments to ensure doses are available. Those seeking more information on H1N1 or the vaccine's availability may call the district's toll-free flu hot line at (800) 829-2255.