No guarantees for those wishing to receive flu vaccine

Since late spring and early summer, consumers have been alerted that there would be a delay in receiving their supply of flu vaccine. Now many are being told they will receive no more or none of their order.

The main reason given for the shortage and delays appears to be a problem in manufacturing which affected the production and delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working closely with vaccine manufacturers to facilitate the availability of safe and effective influenza vaccine for the current flu season. The manufacturers have told them to expect delays in flu vaccine shipments and that it is possible there will be reductions of available vaccine for the 2000-2001 flu season.

The CDC explained, “The amount of vaccine available is complicated by two factors. One is that the yield for this year’s influenza vaccine A(H3N2) component appears to be lower than expected which limits the supply that can be developed in time for this flu season. The other reason is other manufacturing issues. The manufacturers are working closely with the FDA to address these issues.

Tom Mach, pharmacist at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, said, “We have received a small amount of our order. It had been used for our employees, high risk pa-tients and those in the nursing homes.”

He added, “We have been informed that more shipments will be made in December.”

Renee Schwaller from Morrison County Public Health noted that there would be no flu shot clinics sponsored by the department this year. She said, “We have been notified by the manufacturer,Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, that we ordered from will not be making the vaccine due to some difficulties and we will not be getting our supply.”

Steve Brown, business manager at Family Medical Center, Little Falls said, “We have received partial shipments of our order. We ordered vaccine for 3,000 and have received 1,600. The largest shipment was for 250. The company we ordered from said we would receive the rest of our order in December. It has been a nightmare all the way around. CentraCare Clinic got none.”

Brown noted that persons wishing to receive the flu shot are welcome to call the office to see if there is any available, but he also asks that they be understanding if they are told it is not.

There have been numerous media reports that some vaccine distributors are breaking contracts with private providers in order to provide vaccine to mass immunizers, such as chain pharmacies or grocery stores.

CDC has been asked what they are doing about this practice. They replied that while they strongly discourage practices that might divert the vaccine away from those who need it the most, there is really not much that can be done. All influenza vaccine for use in the United States is produced in the private sector and CDC has no control over the distribution of the private- sector vaccine.

Factors that may influence the time orders are received include the company that the order was placed with (some companies experience more delay than others in producing vaccine), the date the order was received (companies tend to fill orders on a first-come first-serve basis), contractual obligations (some companies may have contracts with penalties for non- delivery of vaccine and the target group served.

CDC recommends that persons at high risk for complications from influenza should receive annual vaccinations. These include:

• Persons age 65 years and older;

• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities with residents of any age who have chronic medical conditions;

• Adults and children age six months and older who have chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, including asthma;

• Adults and children ages six months and older who have required regular medical follow-up or hospitalization during the past year because of chronic metabolic diseases, kidney dysfunction, blood disorders, or immune system problems;

• Children and teenagers (six months to 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and therefore might be at risk for developing Reyes Syndrome; and,

• Women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season.

While there are no guarantees that everyone wanting the flu shot this season will be able to receive one, it is predicted that the same amount of vaccine that was produced for the last season will be produced this year.

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