Flu vaccine is making late arrival in county

Sunday, October 3, 2004

October is generally when public health centers and private physicians begin giving flu vaccinations, but they're not available yet in Cape Girardeau County.

"We're not planning to start until much later in the month or the first of next month," said LaDeva Enderle, public information officer for the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center.

The vaccines are not available because of problems with the supplier, Enderle said. Chiron, the company that the health department and some private physicians ordered their vaccine from, identified a small number of lots that did not meet product specifications during their internal release procedures.

That company told the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it expects to distribute up to 48 million doses, with about 43 million to be distributed in October and the remainder in November.

"The company said they wanted to be sure everything was tested and double-checked before they were released," Enderle said.

Enderle said that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said that the delay will not affect public health. The committee is a 15-member advisory board for the CDC and U.S. Health Department. The optimal time to vaccinate against influenza is October and November, but the immunization committee recommends that public health agencies offer their organized vaccination campaigns after mid-October to ensure consistent availability of the vaccine.

"The comforting message is there will be sufficient vaccine available," Enderle said. "Those who receive their flu shots in November and December should be as protected against the flu as they would be if they received the vaccine in October."

According to information from the CDC, flu shots are recommended for:

People 50 and older.

Children ages 6 months to 23 months. Children 6 months to 8 years who are receiving their first-ever flu shot require two doses given a month apart to build immunity.

Nursing home residents and residents of other long-term care facilities that house persons of any age who have long-term illnesses.

Adults and children 6 months or older who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma.

Adults and children 6 months or older who need regular medical care or hospitalization because of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a weakened immune system.

People 6 months to 18 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy and could develop Reye's syndrome after the flu.

Women who are pregnant.

The flu season runs from November until April and peaks between January and March. October and November are the best months to be vaccinated, but a flu shot can be given any time during flu season.

CDC physicians say the flu vaccine is safe, effective and made from inactive influenza viruses that cannot cause the flu. People who are allergic to eggs or who have an acute illness with fever should check with their doctor before getting a flu shot. Side effects of a flu shot are generally some soreness at the vaccination site and possible headache or low-grade fever for about a day after the vaccination.

Flu symptoms generally include fever, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Symptoms appear within one to four days after a person has been infected. Infected persons are considered contagious for up to five days after symptoms appear. The illness can linger for a week or two.

To prevent the spread of influenza, it's best to avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth after coming in contact with a person with flu symptoms, use a tissue when sneezing or coughing and wash hands frequently. If you are sick with the flu, stay home.

The Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center gave shots to more than 4,500 individuals last year. This year they have ordered 5,500 doses.

As soon as the vaccine has arrived, Enderle said she will let the public know when the shots will be administered. Patients may want to contact their private physicians to determine if they have vaccine available.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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