South Carolina sites began receiving shipments of the H1N1 flu vaccine Friday, but it will be a while before it is widely available.
For now, only small amounts of the swine flu nasal-mist vaccine have arrived at health departments and private health-care providers around the state. Most of those doses will go to health-care workers.
"Once we get more sizable amounts and we get the injectable (vaccine) as well, then we'll announce dates, times and locations for DHEC-associated vaccination efforts," said Thom Berry, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
He said he expects that to happen within a couple of weeks.
"We know we're going to get a lot more shipments, literally several times a week, over the next few weeks and months," Berry said. He anticipates 2 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine will come to the state by the end of December.
Private health-care providers also began getting shipments of the flu mist vaccine Friday. The mist is not recommended for pregnant women, children under 2 or people with underlying health issues; they should wait for the injectable vaccine.
Lexington Medical Center received 800 doses of the nasal vaccine Friday. Those will not be distributed to the public, but will be used to vaccinate the hospital's staff.
"Our hospital employees need to be healthy to take care of people who come to the hospital" for treatment, spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.
The Palmetto Health hospital system had not received its vaccines by Friday afternoon. Providence Hospital expects to get its first shipment of the nasal H1N1 vaccine early next week. That will be for Providence employees who are working with patients, said public relations coordinator Megan Wright.
Once more shipments arrive at county health departments, the public can find out the vaccination clinic schedule by checking DHEC's Web site, scdhec.gov/flu, which has information about both H1N1 and regular seasonal flu.
"We've been told by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) don't expect a lot at first - maybe only 100 doses in a shipment," Berry said.
Those shipments started arriving Friday morning at scattered locations and health departments around the state. The Richland County office received 100 doses.
Vaccine amounts are allocated by the CDC based on several factors, including population. Once the allotment for a state is posted, DHEC and private providers can place an order for the vaccine.
The CDC processes the order and sends it to the vaccine distributor, which fills the order and sends it to the customer. There is no central location in South Carolina that is processing the vaccines; instead, it goes directly to the spot where the vaccine was requested.
So far, about 300 providers in South Carolina have requested the vaccine.