CDC: No overall shortage of flu vaccines

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Walgreen's pharmacy manager, Whitney Workman injects a costumer with the seasonal flu vaccine Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, in Columbia, S.C. The seasonal flu vaccine is separate from the vaccines for swine flu. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

While the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center has no flu vaccine to give out, the problem isn't an overall shortage of vaccine, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The health department last week canceled four flu shot clinics, including one set for today in Delta. The clinics were canceled after the department used all 1,700 doses of flu vaccine it has received out of an order of 4,000 doses, said Charlotte Craig, director of the department.

The canceled clinics were for the seasonal flu vaccine available every fall. A vaccine for the H1N1 virus, commonly called swine flu, should start arriving at public clinics and doctor's offices in the next few weeks, said Joe Quimby, spokesman for the CDC.

The health department is seeing increased early demand for flu shots. On Sept. 18, the health department gave 1,099 flu shots during a clinic in Cape Girardeau. In 2008, an early clinic distributed 785 shots, Craig said.

The department charges $15 for flu shots to cover its costs, Craig said. Flu shots are still available from other providers, but the cost often ranges from $30 or $40.

The Perry County Health Department also expects to use quickly its first batch of seasonal flu shots. The department has 900 doses ready for a clinic today in Perryville, Mo., said Judy Laurentis, administrator of the department. The department has 1,600 doses on order, she said.

"Hopefully, whoever wants one will get one eventually," Laurentis said. "It is just a matter of getting it to the people."

Nationally, the CDC expects 115 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine to be distributed, Quimby said. Of that amount, about 54 million have already been delivered.

It isn't unusual for some providers to receive their full orders while others get only a partial allotment, Quimby said. One reason is that distributors fill partial orders to make sure every provider has some vaccine, he said. Another reason could be that the public, after hearing of the dangers of H1N1, is more aware and the early demand is greater than usual.

The need for H1N1 vaccine means providers will receive their full orders of seasonal vaccine sooner than normal, he said. All the seasonal vaccine should available for use by the first or second week of November, while a more traditional schedule would have some vaccine being shipped as late as January.

"The message is that there is more seasonal vaccine distributed thus far than in any previous year," he said.

To prepare for the H1N1 virus, the Department of Health and Human Services increased its vaccine order to 251 million doses, Quimby said. That vaccine should start arriving in the next two weeks, with deliveries of about 20 million doses each week until the demand is satisfied, he said.

The H1N1 vaccine will be distributed to states based on population, Quimby said. It is up to the states and local health departments to set priorities for immunizations based on CDC guidelines, he said.

While some health departments like Cape Girardeau County lack vaccine, there is not a statewide shortage so far, said Kit Wagar, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services. There is, he said, a bigger demand for the vaccine than is available.

"It is a big surge," he said. "More people than ever before want the vaccine."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

1121 Linden St., Cape Girardeau, MO

406 N. Spring St., Perryville, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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