Flu vaccine shortage strikes Southern California

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Flu vaccine shortage strikes Southern California ASSOCIATED PRESS November 10, 2000

LOS ANGELES B A flu vaccine shortage has social workers warning that the virus could run rampant among the poor, the elderly and the homeless in Southern California.

Officials in Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties reported Thursday that they have exhausted their doses of the vaccine and are waiting for the state to deliver on a promise to provide vaccines by December, when flu season begins.

The nationwide flu vaccine shortage reached San Francisco on Wednesday when supplies ran dry and clinics were forced to cancel their immunization programs.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health, which gets its vaccine supply from the state, previously received a shortened supply two months later than usual.

"You can buy heroin in San Francisco easier than you can get a flu shot," said Dr. William Andereck, a member of a council on ethical affairs for the California Medical Association.

The influenza vaccine has been rationed throughout the state, which received only one-third of its normal vaccine supply, because some manufacturers had problems growing one of the most common strains of the virus.

In Orange County, 100 clinics that had been scheduled for November were canceled and four public health centers stayed open until Thursday when their share of 30,000 doses ran out.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has spent $18 million to buy an additional 9 million doses from a leading manufacturer. The purchase will bring the national supply up to 75 million doses, which is about the same amount rationed last year, said CDC spokesman Chuck Fallis.

Health department officials have recommended that high-risk individuals B those 50 and older, pregnant women and the chronically ill B get first priority for the vaccine.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 10, 2000

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