MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama has received its first shipments of the injectable H1N1 vaccine just as the CDC confirmed the outbreak is reaching epidemic levels.
Children and young adults are still considered most at risk, but even for them, the vaccine is pretty hard to find.
The H1N1 virus seems most prevalent in Alabama's classrooms. According to the state health department, more than half of public schools report increases in absentee rates.
One of the hardest-hit schools, Fort Dale Academy in Greenville, saw 90 students out sick Monday. On Tuesday, that number rose to 117.
There is help for young Alabamians, but not everywhere. Only a handful of pediatricians have received the H1N1 vaccine. Among them is Dr. Albert Holloway in Montgomery.
Holloway recommends the vaccine to all his patients and reassures parents that it's safe.
"There's been so much misinformation given out," Holloway said. "The vaccine has been fully tested and if this epidemic had started two to three months earlier it would have actually been part of the regular flu shot."
New research by the CDC indicates children who suffer most from H1N1 also had underlying conditions. But half of the adults with serious cases were considered healthy.
Yet adult access to the vaccine is still limited.
"This week the shots will be out in the states, most of the states I believe, but not in the large numbers we'll be looking for later in the month," explained the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.
Here in Alabama, the majority of vaccine shipments isn't expected until November. That's when it's likely to be available in schools and public health departments.