Delays, shortages in flu vaccine expected : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Published Friday, June 23, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

Delays, shortages in flu vaccine expected New York Times

Shipments of influenza vaccine for the fall will be significantly delayed and there may be shortages because of manufacturing problems, federal officials said Thursday.

In disclosing the surprising development, the officials told clinics, hospitals and other health care providers to delay mass influenza immunization campaigns for at least a month and to make provisions to immunize people at highest risk first. Preparations are now under way for the immunizations, which are usually conducted from October through mid-November.

The shipment delay was attributed in part to laboratory difficulties in growing two new influenza strains in this year's vaccine.

Shipment delays of up to one month have occurred in earlier years, but Nancy Cox, chief of the influenza branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said, ``We have never had a situation where all manufacturers were having a similar problem with a strain.''

Also, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered two of the four U.S. manufacturers to correct other production problems at their plants. The problems were not specified.

``When you put it all together, we have to deliver a message we haven't had to deliver before, which is that mass vaccination programs be held later,'' Cox said Thursday.

Health officials expect a record number of Americans to be immunized in the fall because officials have lowered to 50 years the age at which all people are advised to get a flu shot.

It is not known exactly how many Americans take the vaccine each year, but health officials estimated that 70 million were immunized last year. An estimated 2 million to 4 million Americans 50 to 64 years old are expected to be immunized against influenza for the first time this year.

Because the influenza virus mutates, the vaccine is altered each year to account for the strains expected to circulate during the flu season. This year, as usual, the vaccine protects against three strains. The two new ones are A/Panama and A/New Caledonia; the third, B/Yamanashi, was in last year's vaccine.

Health officials said they and the manufacturers were confident that the supply would be sufficient to immunize those at highest risk of complications from influenza. They include people 65 and older; those suffering from diabetes and other chronic ailments of the heart, lungs and kidneys; and people whose immune systems are suppressed because of cancer treatment or AIDS. The high-risk group also includes women more than three months pregnant during the flu season, residents of chronic care facilities and people in close or frequent contact with high-risk groups.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 24, 2000

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