Flu vaccine shortage affects nation and campus

By on October 27, 2004

This year, the shortage of the flu vaccine has left many wondering just how bad the flu this year will be in the United States. Early indications and milder flu outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand suggest that the flu season could be mild, one vaccine expert said. More recent statistics also indicated a low flu activity in seven states. As of now, there is not a problem. “It’s not ‘We’re getting ready to close the school down, there are so many cases,” Dr. Greg Poland, a government vaccine expert said. However, he cautioned that the United States is just beginning the flu season, which generally peaks in January or later.

As at many other health centers, Quinnipiac did not receive what was ordered, according to Anne Weiss RN, of the Student Health Services.

Weiss said that students with high risk have called for shots and will be evaluated on a case by case basis as the university does have a small supply of the vaccine.

The situation was explained as follows in a recently e-mailed notice, “A limited number of vaccine doses, enough to immunize our students who are compromised and members of the Student Health Services staff, will be forthcoming. I am sorry that I cannot include each and every one of you in this category.”

The Center for Disease Control are working to make sure the next wave of flu vaccine reaches those at highest risk. This includes the very young, the very old and those with chronic medical conditions. Seniors are especially encouraged to get vaccinated to protect against pneumonia, another flu complication. However, the number of high-risk individuals is greater than the 58 million flu doses provided.

The reason for the vaccine shortage is due to British regulatory action; federal authorities learned early in Oct. that Chiron Corp. would not be able to supply 46 million to 48 million vaccine doses. The FDA agreed that Chiron’s flu vaccine was not safe to use.

The shortage will affect Americans everywhere, especially in the workplace. The average worker misses about 1 to 1.5 days a year because of the flu. This rate could double because of scant flu vaccine supplies this year, said David Cutler, a health economist at Harvard. This is despite various workplace flu clinics.

Jamie DeLoma contributed to this report.


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