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Front Page » October 26, 2004 » Local News » Nationwide flu vaccine shortages impact county
Published 4,001 days ago

Nationwide flu vaccine shortages impact county

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Sun Advocate reporter

Carbon County senior citizens, parents with young children and members of high risk groups form lines to receive flu vaccinations at Community Nursing on Oct. 21. Rainy weather conditions made the long wait even more unpleasant for the patrons who waited in excess of two hours. A severe shortage resulted after a major supplier discovered that bacterial contamination had affected 46 million doses of the company's vaccine.

Several high risk groups for the flu, including senior citizens, pregnant mothers and infants, waited in heavy rains for nearly two hours for the Community Nursing flu shot clinic on Oct. 21.

But Linda Beal, area manager for Community Nursing, said that the long lines and lack of flu vaccination are characteristic of what the entire nation is experiencing right now.

"We're trying to provide a scarce resource to a high risk group, not make everyone sick from standing in the rain," she pointed out.

According to Beal, when the rains started falling during the clinic, employees suggested that the clinic be moved to an indoor location that could accommodate the large crowd. However, those waiting in line were so concerned about losing their position, all attempts to move the clinic were refused.

In the end, over 200 patients received the vaccination despite the fact that Community Nursing was expecting to only administer around 50 shots.

Although the crowds were frustrated with the long wait and stormy conditions, several groups had the foresight to bring tarps and umbrellas to keep themselves partially protected. Employees of Big Moes also tried to help ease the overload, giving out free hot chocolate and sheltering as many waiting people as possible.

Beal said that Community Nursing has focused on the objective of getting as much vaccine as possible to Carbon County.

"We're doing the best we can," she commented. "As long as we have vaccine, we'll keep giving it."

Vaccine shortages throughout the nation have made access to the shots limited to only high risk groups.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the vaccine shortage came as a result of bacterial contamination found in limited batches of Chiron flu vaccine doses.

Chiron, a major supplier of flu vaccination, was performing routine tests when the bacterial contamination was discovered. Although the contamination was limited to 4.5 million doses, all of Chiron's flu vaccine (approximately 46 million doses) was quarantined pending further investigation.

In the end, the FDA determined that using the remainder of the vaccine would be unwise.

"Although Chiron's retesting of the unaffected lots of vaccine has been negative for contamination, FDA has determined that it cannot adequately assure the sterility of these lots to our safety standards," stated the FDA in a press release.

The FDA said it ordered several million additional flu vaccination from supplier Aventis Pasteur for a stockpile to be used later this year. Since the Chiron contamination was not discovered until August, replacement of the 46 million doses was impossible for the fall season.

"It would not have been possible in August to add significantly more to flu vaccine production because it takes over six months to prepare," commented the FDA.

As a result, vaccination has been limited to only high risk groups.

The Southeastern Utah District Health Department considers the following as having high-risk priority:

•Children six months to 23 months of age.

•Adults 65 years of age and older.

•Persons two years to 64 years with chronic medical conditions (list of specific conditions available at the health department.)

•All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.

•Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

•Children six months to 18 years on long-term aspirin therapy.

•Health care workers with direct patient care.

•Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than six months of age.

The health district and Community Nursing will each be offering a high-risk clinic this week for those meeting established criteria. The health district clinic will take place Wednesday, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until the vaccine supply is gone. Community Nursing will host a clinic on Thursday, Oct. 28 beginning at 3 p.m.

For those who do not meet high-risk criteria, the health department recommends several measures to help prevent the spread of the flu or like respiratory illnesses.

•Avoid close contact with people who are sick and avoid others when sick.

•Wash hands often. Use warm running water with soapy lather and rub for at least 20 seconds. Wash the front and back of hands, as well as between fingers and under nails. Dry hands thoroughly with clean towel.

•Cover mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing.

•Stay home when sick.

•Use alternative greetings to handshaking during the flu season.

•When it's cold outside, spend the majority of the time inside.

•Open windows at least once a day to let germs out and fresh air in.

•Follow a good housekeeping schedule and disinfect in the proper way. Disinfect food preparation surfaces and eating surfaces.

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