Officials concerned over flu vaccine shortage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

AHOSKIE – A national shortage of flu vaccine has local authorities rationing what is on hand for patient care providers, which means doses for the general public.

&uot;The number of doses of flu vaccine available nationally has been cut in half, which means we will have to prioritize who gets vaccine in North Carolina as well,&uot; said Dr. Leah Devlin, state health department director.

In a news release provided by Dr. Kenneth M. Lovette, Hertford County Public Health Authority, one of the reasons for the shortage is due to a British-based company losing its license to produce the vaccine.

The release reads, &uot;The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported on Oct. 5 that a major source of this season’s influenza vaccine will not be available. Chiron lost its license to produce the vaccine just before it was processed to be shipped.&uot;

An investigation has been launched by British authorities, but as of press time Friday, no apparent reason has been given for the loss of licensing.

The shutdown from production will ultimately result in a loss of approximately 50 million doses for this flu season.

&uot;The supplier of our agency was depending on the Chiron product exclusively,&uot; said Lovette. &uot;We are working with our supplier to find our share of the remaining vaccine available (Fluzone).

&uot;We were informed by our supplier that it could take a week to know the certainty of available vaccine coming our way,&uot; he added. &uot;In the mean time, we urge that citizens contact their personal physicians for information pertaining to their risk and relative need for vaccination and which vaccine would be correct for them.

&uot;We plan to keep the public informed through this and other outlets,&uot; Lovette stated.

Getting the information above may prove easier than getting the vaccine itself.

According to a spokesperson from Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie, the vaccines are scarce in the immediate area an surrounding counties.

RCH is reporting a total of 440 vaccines were available, with a good number of those used for employees.

The remaining 249 vaccines have been reserved for patient care providers only.

This means, RCH has not vaccines for the general public.

Local doctors are also reporting a very limited supply.

Dr. Lovette added, &uot;The CDC has revised its earlier recommendation for universal administration advising, instead, that the vaccine should be administered to high priority groups which include the following:

*All children aged 6 months to 23 months;

*Adults aged 65 years or older;

*Persons aged 2 to 64 years with an underlying chronic medical condition;

*All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;

*Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;

*Children aged 6 months to 18 years receiving chronic aspirin therapy;

*Health care workers involved in direct patient; and

*Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children younger than 6 months.