ALBANY, Ga. — While the rate of people coming in for their flu shots is lower in some counties compared to this time last year, officials with the Southwest Public Health District don’t seem worried about the decreased traffic in those areas yet.
“I tend to be more of an optimist,” said Sue Dale, immunization coordinator for the Southwest Public Health District.
Figures were available for all of the 14 counties within the district through Tuesday. The district includes the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises Dougherty, Baker, Lee, Terrell and Worth. Baker had distributed 118 doses, 24 fewer than the same time last year. Lee had given out 540 doses, 67 fewer than 2010.
Terrell had given out 429 doses, 62 fewer. Without taking into account a flu shot clinic officials conducted Wednesday, Worth was at 205, a decrease of 45 doses from last year.
Officials with the Dougherty County Health Department said they have given out 1,671 doses to date this year. That compares to 1,444 at the same time last year.
The Dougherty number from this season reflects a difference of more than 120 doses from Colquitt County — which can be in part attributed to Colquitt’s health department giving shots in various places including some downtown stores, and even at a local funeral home for its staff and their families.
“Over the years, the counties have built up companies that have come to depend on it,” said Dale. “They don’t have to let people off to get the shot, and they don’t have as many people calling in sick.”
Dale said she attributes decreases in certain areas in part to the fact that many areas, especially those that are densely populated, have other places where people can go to get inoculated — which is not necessarily discouraged by health departments.
“If it means there are more people getting a flu shot, that is a good thing,” Dale said. “Plus, we’ve gotten the same people each year. There are not a lot of new people that come in for a flu shot.
“I think (more places offering it) has made for the biggest difference (in the number of people seeking a flu shot at a health department). The bigger the town, the more places there are. In a place like Albany, you can’t go a block or two without seeing a place.”
In recent years, public health officials have begun offering the vaccine in early September. Previously, it had not been offered until Oct. 1.
A consequence of offering it earlier is warmer weather when distributon starts.
“We had never started it in September before,” Dale said. “We always see a rise (in demand) during a cold snap. It really picked up when the cold weather came. Plus, reports of an outbreak usually increase demand.
“They have to be shown a threat. Some won’t act until they see a threat.”
Overall, there has not been a significant increase in vaccination demand since it has been offered earlier in the year.
“A lot of people seem to wait until October anyway,” said Dale. “We just have to get ready a month earlier.”
Dale said she was unaware of any vaccine shortages at any of the county health departments within the district.