States prepare for flu vaccine delay

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2000

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Health departments across the West say they will limit flu shots to high-risk people and take other steps to cope with an expected shortage of the vaccine this winter.

Alaska's immunology program has not received any of the 85,000 doses it ordered last spring, said Laurel Wood, program manager for the state Department of Health and Social Services.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this summer that shipments of the vaccine would be delayed and a shortage was possible because manufacturers had difficulty growing a new flu strain.

The CDC will know by the end of the month if there will be a national shortage, spokeswoman Charlis Thompson said. She said the shots that are normally shipped in mid-October will be delayed until November. Because of its proximity to Asia, Alaska often gets the first wave of influenza to hit the country.

Health officials are either giving the shots only to those at high risk -- such as the elderly and chronically ill -- or delaying vaccinations until later in the season. Flu season usually peaks in February.

The CDC recommends that people older than 65, those living in nursing homes and those with chronic illnesses get shots first. Priority is also recommended for health care workers, pregnant women in their second and third trimesters and those who have household contact with the chronically ill.

Some health departments are delaying their vaccine season, waiting until the shipments arrive before deciding whether to ration the vaccine.

San Francisco's Department of Health is without its vaccines, while Utah and Wyoming officials have asked that early campaigns for the shots be suspended.

''You used to see people getting them (vaccinations) in grocery stores. That won't be happening this year,'' said Jana Kettering, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Health.


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