On Oct. 5, Chiron, who is a major supplier of influenza vaccine, announced that none of its influenza vaccine would be available for distribution in the United States for the 2004-2005 flu season. Fortunately, the WHCC ordered Fluzone®, an inactivated flu shot, manufactured by Aventis Pasteur, Inc. Nearly 54 million doses of the flu vaccine will be available in the United States this year. Of these doses, approximately 30 million doses already have been distributed by the manufacturer, said Cindy Christman, clinic manager of the WHCC.
“We expect our supply to arrive by the end of October and plan to start the flu shot administration in late October and early November,” Christman said.
The WHCC will be following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and focusing immunizations first on people who have high risk from influenza. This season the following groups are considered to be of equal importance and will be given priority:
• All children ages 6-23 months.
• Adults age 65 years and older.
• Persons ages 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, anemia; as well as people with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs.
• All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
• Children ages 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy.
• Health care workers involved in direct patient care.
• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children under six months of age.
Persons who are not included in one of the priority groups should be informed about the urgent vaccine supply situation and asked to forego or defer vaccination.
The best time to get a flu shot is in October or November. The flu season can peak anywhere from December through March, but most often it peaks in February. By getting the vaccine in December, or even later, can be beneficial in most years. Some who get the flu vaccine may still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than those who did not get the shot, Christman said.
“We recognize that flu shots are very important; however, they are only one component of flu prevention,” she said. “It is important to emphasize other good health habits.”
Good health habits Christman suggested include:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
• Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
• Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
In the meantime, the Coconino County Health Department anticipates a severe shortage of flu vaccine. It is likely that any available flu vaccine will be reserved for the highest risk people. If and when the CCHD receives flu vaccine, public announcements will be made. For more information, call the CCHD at (928) 522-7814.
As more information is available about the status of the flu vaccine supply at the WHHC, updates and administration schedules will be seen in the News.
“The staff at Williams Health Care Center appreciates your understanding and patience in this unexpected and troubling situation,” Christman concluded.
For more information, call the WHCC at (928) 635-4441.