Flu vaccine plentiful in Butler County

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

Just because it’s flu season, doesn’t mean you have to accept that sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head and fever feeling.

At least not this year, said Ziba Anderson.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” said Anderson, Administrator at the Butler County Health Department. “We have plenty of vaccine.”

Vaccines during the last three to five influenza seasons have been woefully inadequate in supply. Because the virus changes each year, vaccines must be updated annually and the complexities of preparing, mass producing and then distributing the vaccine makes for a tight timeline for manufacturers. Additionally, last year Great Britain-based Chiron Corporation had its license pulled after early batches of vaccine were contaminated during the manufacturing process. As such, the US was short 48 million vaccines.

Four manufacturers, including Chiron, whose license has been reinstated, are expected to provide vaccine for the US this year.

Anderson said the health department started administering flu shots this week to those deemed priority by the CDC, including persons aged 65 and older, people with chronic health problems, long-term residents of care facilities, children age 6-23 months, pregnant women and health care personnel providing direct patient care.

Anderson said 250 people received shots on Wednesday, the majority of them older patients at high-risk of catching the flu.

“The mornings are much busier,” he said. “We’re not getting many children in the 6-23 months range, but we encourage everyone to get a flu shot and come throughout the day.”

The vaccine will be administered to the general population starting on Nov. 9, said Anderson.

“If people want the protection of a flu vaccine, we should be able to give it to them,” said Anderson.

Because the vaccine is in such generous supply this season, Anderson said the health department has eliminated the alphabetical procedures that caused problems last year. The CDC, on the advice of health officials and vaccine manufacturers, also established a specific tier date to avoid confusion on when the vaccine would be more widely available.

Demand for the flu vaccine generally falls off in late November. The peak of the flu season in the US can occur anywhere between late December and through March.