Swine flu nasal vaccine is headed for Columbia

The first wave of swine flu vaccine is on the way, with about 25,500 doses of the nasal vaccine bound for Columbia, health officials said Thursday.

The nasal mist should be in health clinics and doctors' offices early next week. South Carolina is one of 25 states included in the first shipments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nasal mist isn't the answer for everyone. Because it is made with a live but weakened flu virus, it isn't recommended for children younger than 2, for pregnant women or for anyone with underlying health problems.

The CDC says only otherwise healthy people ages 2-49 should use the nasal mist vaccine. Others should wait for the H1N1 version of flu shots, which should begin arriving in doctors' offices late next week. About 7 million doses of either the shot or nasal vaccine should be ready by the end of next week.

In South Carolina, the nasal mist will be shipped to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control health clinics and to 250 health care providers who signed up for the vaccine program, said DHEC spokesman Thom Berry.

If you are interested in getting the vaccine, you should call your physician or county health clinic to check on availability next week. With only 25,500 doses initially, it might be difficult to get in on the first wave. But federal officials expect to have plenty of vaccine to meet needs over the next few weeks.

"It is important to talk with your doctor or health care provider about when will be the best time for you to get the H1N1 flu vaccine," said Dr. Jerry Gibson, state epidemiologist. "Everyone needs the flu vaccine."

DHEC officials also have agreements with many school districts to offer shots through the schools. More details about those programs will be announced as more of the vaccine becomes available.

The federal government is paying for the vaccines, but health care providers may charge for administering the doses.