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Flu shots in short supply

Health officials’ advice to watch out for the flu is becoming more serious this year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Health officials’ advice to watch out for the flu is becoming more serious this year.

Research labs have announced that they cannot meet demands for flu vaccines, said Paula Curtis, Lawrence County Health Department’s RN/immunization nurse.

Researchers search globally each year to determine which flu vaccines they need to produce for the upcoming flu season, traditionally December through April, Ms. Curtis said.

"Once they determine the top three strains that look to be the worst, (production labs) begin producing in the spring for fall vaccines," she said. "We learned in October that several labs producing the vaccine were under renovation and several other labs were having trouble producing the (vaccine for) Moscow Type-A flu."

The combination of the two problems has created a shortage, resulting in the Ohio Department of Health only shipping partial shipments to local health departments statewide, she said.

"We did receive a shipment of about 300 doses during the third week of October, but it had to be used to vaccinate high-risk patients," Ms. Curtis said. "It came in on a Thursday and by 10 a.m. the following Monday, we were out."

She said anyone with heart, lung or kidney disease, asthma, anemia or diabetes are considered to be high-risk patients. Also targeted are senior citizens 65 years old and older.

Mothers who are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy are considered to be at a high risk for becoming ill with influenza, too, she said.

"So far this year, we’ve only been able to (vaccinate) roughly 650 people," she said. "This time last year, from mid-October to mid-November, we already had 1,500 people vaccinated. After we receive the remainder of our shipment, we will be able to open it up to the general public."


Ironton Health Department superintendent Charlie Kouns said the flu shot shortage has become so bad that his department still hasn’t received a shipment, even though they reserve 2,000 shots each year.

"We have not ever encountered this in the past," Kouns said. "By the second week of September, we usually have the shot available We still do not have it. We haven’t received any shipments."

He said the ODH has been sending out limited supplies to selected health departments.

"I hope that will be resolved soon," he said. "As soon as we get a shipment, we’ll announce it but we’re not sure how much we will get. We’ll just have to play it by ear."

Ms. Curtis agreed and added that the community has been understanding.

"They will be shipping the remaining balance but we don’t know when," she said. "We thank the people for their patience and understanding."