Small amount of swine flu vaccine arrives in Middle Georgia

The first batch of the H1N1 influenza vaccine to reach the midstate is only enough to treat about 2,000 people, and public health experts say it could still be a few weeks before large-scale immunizations begin.

The 2,000 doses shipped to the North Central Health District — a 13-county region with a population of roughly 500,000 that includes Macon and Warner Robins — are earmarked for children between the ages of 2 and 4 and also for day care providers and health-care workers.

“There’s more due, either later this week or the first of next week,” District Health Director David Harvey said Tuesday, noting that the coming shipment will include about the same number of doses. “It’s not enough to do any kind of mass immunizations with.”

The early batches are in the form of nasal spray vaccine, not shots, and are only used for people ages 2 to 49, Harvey said.

Once an injectable form arrives, he said, everyone is recommended to get the vaccine, which will be free at area health departments.

“This is probably the biggest, most challenging public-health emergency we’ve had since probably the ’50s when polio was such a problem,” Harvey said.

As the vaccine rollout continues, Harvey said local residents can call their private doctors, who may have ordered the vaccine.

“If they’re gonna get (the vaccine) at the health department, they need to call first. Because we have such a limited supply that it may go fast,” Harvey said.

To reach the health department in Bibb County, call 745-0411.

In Houston County, call 218-2000.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.