As flu-conscious callers flooded phone lines at the county Health Department last week, officials offered a bit of good news.
The county received 1,400 doses of the adult flu vaccine to add to its original 1,450 doses from the state. The 2,850 doses -- plus 1,400 children's doses -- will be offered to priority populations, by appointment only, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Monday at clinics.
"We're trying to get to the most vulnerable populations," said Frederick J. Corder, the county health officer.
Those populations include adults 65 and older, children 6 months to 23 months, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses. Corder expected the doses to be claimed quickly.
The high demand for flu shots comes amid a shortage because of problems in manufacturing the vaccine.
In October, a British company, Chiron Corp., announced that it had impounded 48 million doses of adult flu vaccine intended for U.S. distribution because of contamination fears, sending U.S. health officials scrambling to find replacement doses. To manage the shortfall, a federal redistribution plan was put in place to target high-risk populations.
"There are at least 57,000 residents who are 65 years or older, and we only have about 2,900 vaccines," Corder said. "So the problem is we cannot possibly fill the need, but we're trying to."
The flu season runs from late October to early spring. Last year, flu claimed the lives of 119 county residents, 90 of whom were 65 or older, officials said. The county administered about 1,500 flu shots last year.
Although the dosages for adults have been limited, Corder said, there has not been a shortage of children's flu vaccine. Publicity, however, is prompting higher demand than in previous years, he said.
Corder said the county is working with the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to get more flu vaccine doses.
Corder urges residents to wash their hands frequently and stay home from work when sick to prevent the spread of the illness.
Flu-shot appointments for adults can be made at 301-583-3100. Appointments for children can be made at 301-883-7230. Proof of residency and age is required.