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Friday September 29 5:05 PM ET

Delay in U.S. Flu Shots Seen After Vaccine Glitch

By Paul Simao

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A glitch in the production of flu vaccine means millions of Americans will likely face delays getting their annual shots this winter, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) said on Friday it did not expect a shortage of the life-saving vaccine.

The Atlanta-based agency estimated that a total of 75 million doses of flu vaccine, including 9 million extra doses provided by a private manufacturer, would be available for flu season, enough to meet usual demand.

But it said a substantial amount of vaccine would reach doctors and other health-care providers later than usual, and recommended that those at high risk, such as the elderly, chronically ill and health-care workers, be vaccinated first.

The length of delays would depend on manufacturers, distributors and when vaccine was ordered. Most Americans get their flu shots in the last three months of the year.

``There are some shipments of vaccine going out from the manufacturers right now and we know that the percentage, or the amount out at this time this year compared to previous years, is less,'' said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds.

An estimated 110,000 Americans require hospital treatment and 20,000 die every year from influenza.

The CDC recommends vaccination for those aged 50 and older and those with diabetes, immunosuppression disorders, severe anemia and chronic diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys.

Residents of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities, women more than three months pregnant in flu season, those in close contact with high-risk groups and children and teenagers taking aspirin for long periods are also urged to get immunized.

In an update released on Thursday, the CDC also urged mass vaccination campaigns be scheduled for later in the flu season and healthy people aged 50 to 64 delay their shots until December or later.

A delayed vaccination schedule would likely still protect most people if the flu season followed its trend of not peaking until January or later. Two weeks are generally needed for a person to become fully immune after receiving the vaccine.

The problems with the flu vaccine, which health officials had described as unprecedented, cropped up several months ago when it was revealed that flu strains in this year's vaccine had grown more slowly than expected in laboratories.

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 29, 2000

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