Louisiana: Vaccine delays put flu shots on hold for at least a month beyond normal

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Louisiana: Vaccine delays put flu shots on hold for at least a month beyond normal


Advocate staff writer

Be prepared to wait a little longer before getting that flu shot because this year's vaccine is still incubating.

Health-care practitioners who said they normally give patients' their shots in early October will have to wait until the end of the month before mass vaccine shipments arrive, said Bob Johannessen, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

The delay has prompted the health-care community to schedule meetings statewide to help health-care professionals prepare.

They recommend that health-care providers vaccinate senior citizens and patients suffering from chronic diseases or upper respiratory illnesses when the first shipment of the flu vaccines arrive.

The rest of the population will receive their shots later, Johannessen said.

"It means we should be able to administer it to everyone who needs it, but not everyone at once," Johannessen said. Johannessen said DHH has ordered 100,000 units of flu vaccine serum for flu shots to be provided through parish health units.

The vaccine shipments will continue to arrive across the country until late December, he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to release 75.3 million doses of vaccine this year.

Three manufacturing plants distribute the influenza vaccine in the United States. A fourth manufacturing plant stopped distributing the vaccine earlier this year.

One of the leading manufacturers of the influenza serum said one of three strains of the virus is still developing, causing the setbacks.

"It's significantly slower growing than the other strains we normally use. This is very unusual for this to happen. As a result of that, the shipments are delayed about a month," said Len Lavenda, director of public affairs for Aventis Pasteur, a Pennsylvania-based company that leads the nation in manufacturing the flu vaccine and plans to produce 35 million doses this year.

Lavenda said the A/Panama strain of the virus is causing the problems.

"The good news is there will be enough vaccine for everyone barring any unforeseen circumstances," he said.

"However, people may need to wait longer to receive it."

Baton Rouge General Medical Center is expecting to administer about 1,500 flu shots this year, said Connie DeLeo, infection control practitioner of the Infection Control Department at the center.

DeLeo said early and mid-October is the recommended time to get flu shots. DeLeo said the hospital is expecting a portion of its vaccine shipment in late October and the remainder of the serum is expected to arrive in early to late November.

She said the flu season usually occurs between October and November, depending on weather conditions.

"The faster you can vaccinate, the better. There is concern that we won't be able to vaccinate as fast, but the fact that we can vaccinate is important," she said. DeLeo said she is optimistic.

"With hopefully a milder winter and a prolonged summer, that may be in our favor," she said. Senior citizens should get vaccinated for pneumonia to prevent health complications from the flu, said Christine Myers, director of community development for Louisiana Health Care Review Inc.

Health-care practitioners who would like to know more about the flu season can attend a town meeting. The meeting by the Louisiana Alliance for Immunization Management will be held noon Oct. 9 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 4914 Constitution Ave.

The meeting will include information on creating plans for vaccinating higher-risk patients and scheduling mass immunization clinics in mid-November when the majority of the flu serum is expected to arrive.


http://www.theadvocate.com/news/story.asp?StoryID=16614 Posted at 6:15 a.m. PDT Wednesday, October 4, 2000

-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), October 04, 2000

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