Running short of flu shots

Published 11:20 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2004

By By Anna M. Lee
Due to a shortage of flu vaccines, the Escambia County Health Department reports that it will probably administer only 2,000 to 3,000 vaccines this year, compared to the 4,000 that were administered by the health department last year.
On the advice of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the health department will only administer vaccines to people in high risk categories: children under the age of two, adults over the age of 65, people with underlying chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children on chronic aspirin therapy, healthcare workers with direct patient care and contacts of children under the age of six months.
"A lot of healthy people aren't going to get their vaccines," said Ricky Elliott, public health environmentalist with the Escambia County Health Department. "Some people who normally don't get the flu because of taking the vaccine are probably going to get the flu this year."
Though vaccines are not yet available through the health department, Elliott says that the state is expected to get only 50 percent of the 225,000 vaccines that were ordered by the Department of Public Health this year.
"This is going to affect us drastically as far as the number of vaccines we give," Elliott said.
The shortage of vaccines is due to the closing of a British manufacturer that provides vaccines to the United States.
The number of vaccines that will be delivered to Alabama and how they will be distributed is still being determined, and when they will be available through the health department is still not certain. Dan St. Onge, immunization specialist for Escambia County, estimates that vaccines will be available sometime in November.
Brewton pediatrician Dr. Marsha Raulerson said that her office began administering vaccines in September and she doesn't believe her office will experience any shortage of pediatric doses. She said the practice has administered about 150 vaccines so far and will probably give about 500 by the end of flu season.

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