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H1N1 Activity in the Southeast

April 7, 2010

CDC Reports State-by-State Vaccination Coverage Rates

In the recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Southeast states were pointed to as having less H1N1 vaccine coverage than the national average. The area is now also seeing an uptick in influenza-like illness (ILI). Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are seeing regional increases in hospitalizations due to ILI.

It is difficult to pinpoint what could have led to the low rates of vaccination in the Southeast, in contrast to higher rates in New England. In Rhode Island, 37 percent of the general population and 85 percent of school-aged children received the H1N1 vaccine. The prevalence of school-based vaccination clinics may have played a role but that has not been determined.

In an April 1 press briefing on the details of the report, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, did not have any specifics on school-based vaccination clinics as they related to lower coverage rates.

“The schools were interested in doing them in some communities the school preferred that the vaccination be done elsewhere in other communities,” said Dr. Schuchat. “This is why we''re really doing large-scale evaluations to understand what strategies worked best. There may be some approaches to school vaccination that were more successful than other approaches.”

In South Carolina, about one in five people were vaccinated against H1N1, which is less than the national median. The state offered free flu clinics and promoted vaccination in widespread campaigns.

Dr. Jerry Gibson of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said fear of vaccine or the flu’s early arrival in the state could possibly explain the low rates of vaccination.

Vaccination Campaign Continues

In the fall and winter of last year, health officials in Georgia were very active in getting members of their community vaccinated over the course of the fall and winter last year. In December, the East Metro Health District in Atlanta rented a 1,400-foot space in a local shopping mall to hold an H1N1 mass vaccination clinic. Because of the location and the health department''s promotional initiatives, the vaccine clinic drew people from far and wide.

“Due to the heavy media coverage, word-of-mouth, and a creative but convenient location, we received clients from all over the greater Metro Atlanta area,” said Elizabeth Hausauer, emergency preparedness specialist with the East Metro Health District. “One couple from Florida reported that they were visiting family for the weekend and heard about the vaccinations on the news. After the first day, we had many people come by at the encouragement of family or friends who had been vaccinated on a prior day.”

In January, during National Influenza Vaccination Week, the East Central Health District released a public service announcement directed to residents in the region, calling on them to get immunized against H1N1.  

Health officials in the Southeast continue to urge residents to get vaccinated against H1N1 in the hopes of curtailing the uptick in influenza-like illness.

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