U.S. loses half of expected flu vaccine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2004

If you planned to get a flu vaccine any time soon, you may be out of luck.

According to Jerry Golden, manager at Stabler Clinic, the company in Great Britain that supplies the majority of the U.S. lost its license.

Thus, 48 million doses, expected to arrive around the country this month, won’t be coming.

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The U.S. gets nearly all its flu vaccine doses from two manufacturers, Chiron Corp. and Aventis Pasteur.

Chiron announced last August that manufacturing problems resulted in contamination of some early lots of its vaccine. Correcting these problems, they said, would delay vaccine delivery.

Those problems turned out to be bigger than originally thought and British officials pulled Chiron’s manufacturing license at its Liverpool plant. With that, Chiron will release no flu vaccinations for this flu season, according to Chiron’s corporate site.

&uot;Chiron deeply regrets that we will be unable to meet public health needs this season,&uot; Chiron CEO Howard Pien stated in a news release.

The Center for Disease Control, based in Atlanta, has been hawking flu vaccinations for several weeks now, urging everyone to get a shot.

Now the CDC is working overtime on new recommendations.

According to Golden, those few flu vaccinations may be restricted to high-risk groups such as the elderly, people with certain medical conditions and children between 6 months and 23 months of age.

He said the news came without warning and he expected the clinic’s shipment in on Tuesday.

Now, area residents must wait and see who will get the coveted vaccinations.

&uot;We are on a waiting list to get some of the available vaccinations,&uot; he said.

&uot;The shipment was supposed to come in today (Tuesday) and my supplier called me and notified me we weren’t getting the product.&uot;

According to WebMD, a third manufacturer, MedImmune, makes a nasal-spray flu vaccine. But it wasn’t a big seller last year. This year, MedImmune is making only 1.5 million doses. Aventis Pasteur is still expected to deliver 52 million doses of its vaccine.

Altogether, this means the U.S. will have 53.5 million of an expected 101.5 million doses. Last year, Americans used nearly all of the 84 million available doses.

If flu vaccine availability is indeed restricted, the following groups of people are those who should first get the vaccine:

N Kids with asthma

N Kids aged 6-23 months

N People over age 50

N Anyone with long-term health problems

N Health care workers and their immediate families

N People with weakened immune systems

N Children on long-term aspirin treatment

N People in nursing homes

Golden said the bad part about the vaccine is that it has no shelf life and also the flu strain changes.

&uot;If you don’t use it in the year it’s for, you can’t use it,&uot; he said.

&uot;The flu strain changes every year and it goes bad.&uot;