MOULTRIE -- Flu vaccines are available for anyone who wants one beginning this week.

"Anyone in the general population can get one now as of (Monday). As far as our local health department goes, we will get flu vaccine as long as there is some available at our district pharmacy in Albany and as long as there is a demand," said Sue Dale, District Immunization Coordinator for Public Health District 8-2.

Friday, the Georgia Department of Human Resources notified county health departments to begin allowing unrestricted access to the general public, Dale said. Although 16 states already lifted restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that they stay in place, she said. Georgia is tied closely to CDC, she said, since it is headquartered in Atlanta.

Demand slowed during the warm holiday season, Dale said, but cold snaps typically bring it back up again. The Colquitt County Health Department didn't even see a real increase in demand after Georgia health officials loosened restrictions earlier this month, she said.

February is the peak time for influenza, she said, and usually it takes two weeks for the vaccine to work.

"We want to emphasize that we still want to immunize high-risk people, especially," Dale said. "It's not too late to get a flu shot."

Although no cases of influenza have been documented in Colquitt County, the health department has gotten calls

"I think we may see an increase in flu-like symptoms," she said.

Health officials believe that high-risk persons didn't bother to get vaccinated because of all the media hype about the scarcity, she said.

Case in point: Last week, she spotted a man in his 70s who came in for his annual flu shot. When she asked him why he waiting so long, he said he thought flu shots would be difficult to get and he didn't want the hassle. Dale said the man, because of his age, would have qualified for a shot.

Flu shots costs $18 for adults and $14 for children. The shots are covered by Medicaid, PeachCare and Medicare.

For more information, contact the Colquitt County Health Department at 891-7100.

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