Health departments: Flu shots down in area

ALBANY — The number of people getting flu shots, at least from a county health department, continues to be down in Southwest Georgia this year from 2010.

As of Wednesday, there were 10 counties out of the 14 in the Southwest Public Health District that showed a decrease in flu vaccine rates, data released Thursday by the health district indicated.

Dougherty County has gone from the 2,440 doses administered by Nov. 30, 2010, to 2,166 by the same time this year. This difference, at 274 doses, makes for the second biggest drop in the district. The only county to have a bigger drop was Colquitt County — which went from 2,567 to 2,214 doses, making for a difference of 353 doses.

The four counties to show an increase in the number of administered doses was Baker, Early, Miller and Thomas counties. Miller County had the biggest jump at 50 doses, and both Thomas and Early counties were tied for the smallest increase at 12 doses.

Districtwide, there were 15,002 flu vaccine doses given as of Nov. 30 of last year. As of Wednesday, there were 13,016 doses given out this season — resulting in an overall decrease of 1,986 administered doses.

Public health officials are hopeful this is due primarily to more people getting their vaccinations from venues other than the county health departments.

“I don’t think it’s because fewer people are being immunized, it’s just that it is available in areas it has not traditionally been at,” said Brenda Greene, deputy director of the local health district. “We do have fewer people getting doses, but we are providing more onsite (vaccine clinics).

“The overall goal is to make sure people are getting the vaccine. We are not upset that other businesses are providing it. The more people that are immunized, the less likely there is to be an outbreak.”

Greene said that would likely explain why increases have been seen in some of the counties that are not as densely populated.

“They are smaller counties with minimal (access) to drug stores,” she said.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that only 40.5 percent of Georgians were vaccinated against seasonal influenza during the 2010-11 season. This puts the state at No. 41 out of 50, which experts fear places Georgians at greater risk of catching an illness that can result in hospitalization or even death.

“That is very concerning to us. That is why we are trying to get the word out,” Greene said of the state rate.

The flu shots do not contain live viruses and are approved for people ages 6 months and older. Nasal spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses and is approved for healthy people aged 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.

Both varieties of the vaccine are available in the county health departments throughout Southwest Georgia. Officials say that pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, health care workers, older adults and the very young are among those most at risk for complications from the flu.

Flu vaccine cost $25 per dose at the county health departments, and a variety of payment options are available. For more information, contact your local health department.