The Howard County Health Department expects to have enough vaccine available for the rest of the flu season even though some clinics across the region have faced shortages and have been forced to shut down.

More than 6,000 people have been vaccinated this year at county clinics. That's nearly as many as the total number last year, when supplies were limited. Still, county health officials said they will have enough vaccine to meet the demand during the remaining clinics scheduled over the next two weeks.

"We ordered a little more, anticipating that, like every year, more people would be getting vaccinations," said Lisa Heyward, spokeswoman for the county health department.

The vaccine offers protection against the annual flu strain that emerges around the start of winter, not the bird flu in Southeast Asia, which has generated widespread fear that it could mutate and become highly contagious.

The popularity of the clinics in Howard has led to lines as patients fill out information, pay for the vaccine and then wait for staff to administer the shot. The process can take an hour or more, health officials said.

"People have been very understanding of the waits," Heyward said, "but we are always trying to get more staff to move people through faster."

The vaccinations cost $20 and are available in shot form or as a nasal vaccine. They are covered under Medicare Part B, but Heyward said no one unable to pay will be turned away from a clinic.

The nasal spray vaccine was more popular than anticipated this year, and health department officials ordered 450 extra vaccinations, which were expected to arrive yesterday and should be available at clinics.

The three remaining clinics will be:

* From 2 to 7 p.m. Monday. First Presbyterian Church, 9325 Presbyterian Cir., Columbia. Family clinic.

* From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Thursday. Glenwood Library, 2350 Route 97, Cooksville. Adults only.

* From 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 12. Bethany United Methodist Church, 2875 Bethany Lane, Ellicott City. Family clinic.

Howard County Executive James N. Robey gets his flu shot. He is one of more than 6,000 in Howard to be vaccinated this year.