Flu shots few, far between

Problems cause delays for state's vaccine orders

Posted: Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Waking up with a fever, sore throat, cough, achy muscles and a runny nose is a good sign that the flu bug has struck.

While there is protection against influenza in the form of a vaccine, available flu shots are few and far between so far.

The Kenai Peninsula Public Health Center, which normally administers more than 1,000 flu shots a year, does not yet have the vaccine and does not know when it will arrive, said JoAnne Hagen, nurse manager for the center.

The center usually holds flu shot clinics during the middle to latter part of October, but this year's clinics are up in the air.

"This year we don't know if we can have them that soon," Hagen said.

Ken Browning, a health program manager with the state's Division of Public Health Section of Epidemiology, said the problem is not because of vaccine shortages.

"There will be a delay in the vaccinations, not a shortage," he said.

Browning said the delay stems from a combination of two problems. The first problem arose because the actual influenza vaccine goes through a growth process. This year, one of the components of the vaccine grew slower than was expected, he said.

The other problem came when some vaccine manufacturers came under review by the Food and Drug Administration and a hold was ordered on some of the manufacturing processes.

The state ordered 85,000 vaccinations, but that order has not yet arrived, said Browning. Due to the delay, Browning said the state is encouraging health-care providers who already have received their vaccine shipment to administer it to high-risk patients.

People are considered high risk if they are 65 and older, have chronic heart and lung disease, diabetes, mellitus, disorders of the blood or anyone with a suppressed immune system. Anyone working with high-risk patients, including health care providers, also are considered for the vaccine.

Some health-care providers, however, are offering the vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis.

A spokesperson for the Medicenter in North Kenai said the office is offering flu shots to anyone.

Linda Wood, a registered nurse with Mobile Medical Inc. of Anchorage, set up a stand in front of Carrs Quality Center in Kenai over the weekend and was giving vaccines to anyone who asked.

"We will do it until we run out of vaccinations," she said.

Wood started giving shots last weekend and will return this Friday through Sunday to the same location.

Mobile Medical Inc. also has set up vaccination stations throughout the state. Wood said another station is at Safeway in Soldotna.

Hagen said when the vaccines do arrive at the public health center, senior centers will be the first on the list to receive them. She apologized for any inconvenience and frustration the delay in getting the vaccines has caused.

"It is just out of our control," she said.

When vaccines do arrive, Hagen said if the quantity is more than expected, shots will be available for patients not considered high risk.

Recovery from the flu normally takes between two and seven days, say the experts. Flu shots provide 70 to 80 percent protection against infection.

Influenza is an acute viral disease of the respiratory tract.

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