A crowd began to gather shortly after 4 a.m. Wednesday at University Hospital Medical Center at Flowing Wells and Columbia roads for the limited number of flu shots.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Clayton Cobb said it wasn't the first time he had stood in a line to get a flu shot, but it was the first time he had done so outside, standing behind hundreds of people.
"I'm just thankful it's not raining,'' he said Wednesday while waiting to get his flu shot at a clinic at University Community Resource Center's prompt care office at the corner of Columbia and Flowing Wells roads.
Cobb, a Martinez resident who said he gets a flu shot every year, was only one of 400 high-risk people who took a number to receive the shot Wednesday in the midst of a national flu vaccine shortage. The clinic attracted a large elderly crowd, some of whom sat in lawn chairs while in line and had to park along Columbia and Flowing Wells roads.
John Garrard, a community relations manager for University, said the shots were prioritized to those who needed it the most.
"We're following the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines for those at high risk,'' he said, adding that officials were considering whether or not to hold another similar clinic from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 3 at the same location. "I think we still need to make that decision.''
Garrard said his office received its vaccine earlier in the year and wasn't effected by the shortage, but because of that national shortage University might need to keep a stockpile just in case. If a flu shot clinic is held Nov. 3, he said about 200 doses would be administered.
While such demand for the shot hit the private sector, Columbia County's Health Department began a new tier of flu vaccine shot distribution Tuesday as part of a statewide mandate requiring the shots first be given to residents and workers of long term care facilities.
Phyllis Roland, the facility administrator for the Columbia County Health Department, said her office had been without flu shot doses since Oct. 4, the first day the shot was made available in the county this season.
On that day, she said, 630 doses were administered in the county on a first-come, first-served basis - 80 in Harlem, 80 in Appling and 470 at two clinics in Evans.
Rationing of flu shots then began when it was learned a supply of flu shot doses from a company in England had become contaminated.
"We had a shortage last year and the year before,'' she said. "But this is probably the worst it's gotten.''
Agnes Lewandowski, of Evans, Georgia, smiles as she gets her flu shot from Cindy Lynch, R.N. at University Hospital Medical Center on Flowing Wells and Columbia Road. Lewandowski got in line at 6:15 a.m. to ensure that she got one of the 400 vaccines available.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Roland said her department has now conducted surveys of the county's long-term care facilities, finding about 540 residents and workers in need of the shot. On Monday, she said her office would request that number of flu shot doses from the health department's district office so it could begin its tier one shots.
After the first tier of candidates for the flu shot are inoculated, she said, a second tier - workers of acute care hospitals or other health care-based facilities - would then become eligible for the shot.
Larry Walker, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Human Resources' Division of Public Health, said a third tier of those available for the shot would be those in community-based high-risk populations.
A release sent out by the Georgia Department of Human Resources also has asked public health departments to ask private providers to see how much vaccine they have available and how many high-risk individuals they will be able to help. Rebecca Sylvester, a spokeswoman for University, said the main thing people need to know before getting a flu shot is if they are allergic to egg. If so, a flu shot cannot be given.
"The flu vaccine is grown in an egg shell,'' she said.
As far as healthy, younger residents are concerned, Walker said it's unknown when flu vaccine shots will become available through the health department.
"There is no time line,'' he said. "No expectation of any additional vaccine that we can do that. As it stands now, we're just looking at those that fall into the tiers, those priorities groups.''
But Roland said that for those who haven't received a flu shot and are age 5 to 49, there is an alternative. She said those in that category can visit their doctor and ask for a prescription for FluMist, which is a nasal spray.
"It's very effective,'' she said, adding that only those age 5 to 49 can use the mist.
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