The global flu vaccine market is still causing headaches for local flu shot clinic organizers, health care workers and patients looking for shots this flu season.
"At this time, vaccine is still not available to the general public, which means the recommended CDC guidelines need to be maintained when it does become available so that those most in danger are vaccinated," said Chris Heffner, pharmacist at Maurer's Apothecary. Many flu clinics, including Maurer's own, have been canceled with little hope of being rescheduled.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta appealed for voluntary rationing in October of vaccine to those in medical high-risk situations, children ages 6 to 23 months, people over the age of 65, health care workers who care for high-risk patients and the elderly.
"We've been working closely with both departments in an effort to obtain vaccine for patients and staff," said Sally Schutte, Administrator of Holly Hill Healthcare, who expressed gratitude about the assistance local facilities have received. "They've been wonderful in keeping us up to date about vaccine availability, and ensuring that it gets where needed most."
Local nursing home facilities, working closely with Clay Co. Health Dept. and the Indiana Health Dept., are still experiencing some difficulties in securing vaccinations for patients and/or staff. All are optimistic that vaccine will be available to complete needed inoculations before the new year.
"Vaccine is being distributed as it becomes available to health officials," said Jennifer Lucas, Clay County Health Nurse. "But the CDC guidelines released in October are being adhered to as closely as possible so people in high risk categories can be vaccinated first."
A license suspension in Liverpool, England, caused some 50 million doses of vaccine manufactured by the world's second largest flu vaccine maker destined for the U.S. to be labeled unusable.
"We were able to appropriate enough vaccine through the St. Vincent network of facilities to vaccinate the patients and hospital staff," said Lori Mayle, Infection Control and Employee Health Coordinator for St. Vincent Clay Hospital.
Clay County was hit hard by the vaccine shortage this year. The hospital, all the nursing homes and the health department experienced problems.
"Many health facilities that provide flu shots for the uninsured, impoverished, elderly and children rely upon tax dollars, creating a need to be fiscally responsible when ordering vaccine," said Lucas. "These agencies placed their orders with the less expensive company, Chiron, which created a shortage in the areas of the population that needed the vaccine the most."
Experts agree that this year's vaccine fiasco is a wake-up call for the flu vaccine industry. During the mid-1960s there were 26 flu vaccine manufacturers in the United States. Because flu strains change yearly, vaccines not used during the intended flu season must be destroyed. Due to unsold excess vaccine by many companies through the years causing lost revenue, only three were available for 2004.
The Chiron Corp., still having major problems, needs to return to production by January to deliver its vaccine order for next fall. Shareholders have been informed of the need for additional investment in the company, but the company's ability to supply the United States 2005 vaccine order remains uncertain.
Emergency warning signs that urgent medical attention is needed if someone has the flu include:
For Children --
- Fast or troubled breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or unresponsive (sluggish)
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with high fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
For Adults --
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness and/or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of the above signs, please seek immediate medical attention. Upon arrival, notify reception staff that you think you have the flu. Be aware that you may be asked to wear a mask and/or sit in a separate area to protect others from getting sick.