"In many areas of the state, it appears demand for the vaccine by those in the groups initially targeted for vaccination has begun to drop off," state health director Dr. Jeffrey Engel said in a news release Tuesday afternoon. "We now feel comfortable broadening vaccination efforts so anyone who wants the H1N1 vaccine may receive it."
For the past two months, public health officials have been offering the vaccine only to people considered to be at highest risk of developing complications if they were to become sick with the H1N1 flu.
Wake County announced Monday that it would open up the vaccine to anyone over 6 months old.
About 200 people showed up Tuesday morning at the Wake County Public Health Center on Sunnydale Road in Raleigh to get the vaccine. Traffic was slow and steady – a stark contrast to earlier this year when hundreds lined up and were turned away due to a limited supply of the vaccine.
Ray Martin, 71, said he was in and out in 15 minutes.
Vaccines were still available Tuesday afternoon, and the county planned to continue holding vaccination clinics for the rest of the week at four locations across the county. Durham County also announced Tuesday it was lifting its restrictions. (View a map of locations below.)
North Carolina has received more than 2 million doses of H1N1 vaccine and is working to distribute it across the state.
"As we enter this new phase, it is important for people to remember that we are still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic," Engel said.
"While the number of cases may be going down, the rate of influenza illness is still high, and we can expect another wave of influenza as we reach the peak of the regular flu season. If you have not yet been vaccinated, we urge you to do so."
Since the outbreak of H1N1 began last April, North Carolina has reported 74 deaths associated with influenza-like illness.
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