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Flu vaccine due to arrive in November

October 20, 2000

Flu vaccine due to arrive in November



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


Tri-State area public health officials said this week flu vaccinations should be available to high-priority patients by early November.

Most public health officials weren't concerned about an outbreak of influenza before the vaccines arrived, especially since peak flu season isn't until February. It takes 10 days to two weeks for the vaccine to become fully active in the human body, officials said.

Still, residents who are concerned about getting their annual flu shot, especially people at high risk, can call their private physician to see if the vaccine is available.

Some private doctors in the Tri-State area have already received shipments of the vaccine, health officials said.

Tri-State public health agencies usually begin vaccinating thousands of local residents in mid-October each year.

Even though the agencies expect to receive the vaccine by early November, there could be additional delays, and health officials don't anticipate getting their entire orders until December.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is encouraging healthy people who usually get flu shots to hold off so people at high risk have a better chance of getting theirs, CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said.

Typically, only half of the high-risk population gets flu shots, Reynolds said.

If the entire high-risk population shows up this year to get vaccinated and healthy people line up for shots as well, there could be a shortage, Reynolds said.

People 65 and older, people with chronic illnesses and health care workers are considered at high risk.

These people will be targeted first for flu vaccinations once the shipment arrives, said Washington County Health Officer William G. Christoffel. Those not covered by Medicare are asked to make a $7 contribution.

Hagerstown Pediatrician Bruce Weneck said he received approximately 150 doses about 10 days ago, but is conserving them. The doses are being used for high-risk children, including children with asthma, diabetes and heart problems, Weneck said.

Vaccination shipments were initially delayed because the A, or Panama, strain of the flu vaccination was not growing well, Reynolds said.

One of the four manufacturers for the vaccine decided not to produce it this year because of regulatory issues, but the other three manufacturers have picked up production to match last year's total, Reynolds said.

Vaccine manufacturer Wyeth has its own delay when the Radnor, Pa.-based firm shut down its manufacturing facility temporarily to address Food and Drug Administration concerns, Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus said.

Wyeth, with whom the state of Maryland contracted to get the vaccine, is starting to ship 23 million doses this week and should be done by mid-December, Petkus said.

Seventy percent of the doses nationwide should be distributed by the end of November, Reynolds said.

Christoffel said 56 percent of Washington County's order for 8,000 doses are expected to arrive in early November with the remainder coming in December.

Washington County Health Department officials also are checking with other pharmacies to see when they will get their shipments so people have alternative sources.

Frederick County Health Officer Dr. James Bowes said he expects 1,200 of 7,200 doses to arrive in early November.

That's low when you consider that 2,000 doses were given out during the clinic's first day last year, Bowes said.

Bowes said he was concerned a round of influenza might be upcoming because many people weren't wearing their coats during the recent stretch when it was warm during the day, but turned cold by late afternoon.

The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health plans to ship vaccines to local agencies at the end of October, when the department should have its entire shipment, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health spokesman Mark Ferrell said.

Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said he hopes the state can distribute the vaccine to local health agencies in Franklin and Fulton counties by early November, but he didn't know when the state department would get them.

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