Flu vaccine likely tight in U.S. this year, too

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Flu vaccine likely tight in U.S. this year, too ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Flu vaccine shipments are likely to be delayed again this year, federal health officials said Thursday during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

This year, some 83.7 million people are expected to seek flu vaccines. By the end of October, 53.5 million doses -- 64 percent of the amount needed-- are expected to be available.

Though that is more than twice the 26.6 million doses available at the same time last year, it is less than the 75.8 million doses available by the end of October 1999, when there was no delay.

This November and December, another 30.2 million doses -- 36 percent of the projected 83.7 million needed -- are likely to be available, though officials said those numbers could change.

Flu vaccination typically peaks by early November, but the disease peaks between December and March. In 15 of the past 19 years, the disease peaked between January and March, indicating vaccination in November, December and even later is usually effective, the advisory committee said.

The vaccine does not confer protection until about two weeks after it is administered.

Public health officials seek to give priority to people at highest risk of complications -- those age 65 and older and people with chronic illness, including heart and lung diseases and diabetes.

The ACIP recommended high-risk people seek the vaccine in September or October, or as soon as it is available. Those not at high risk are urged to hold off getting their shots until November or later.

Though manufacturers are working to increase production capacity, it has fallen in recent years. In 1999, four U.S. manufacturers were licensed to make influenza vaccine; today there are only three. And one of them is still making production changes to bring it into full compliance with good manufacturing practices.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 22, 2001

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