A nationwide shortage of influenza vaccines has once again delayed scheduled clinics throughout the Rim country.
The shortage first left Rim country health professionals in a lurch last month, when the 300 people who lined up for shots at the Second Annual Lion's Community Health Fair had to be turned away.
Organizers were forced to hand out rainchecks for another clinic that was scheduled for Saturday, but now that event, too, has been canceled for lack of supplies.
"We regret it, but we couldn't do a thing about it," said Robert Ware, executive director of the Mogollon Health Alliance, which co-sponsored the health fair and this weekend's clinic along with the Payson Lion's Club and Payson Regional Medical Center.
Clinics scheduled at other locations around the Rim country also have been delayed because the three main vaccine manufacturers have had production problems that have put a squeeze on supplies.
"We had our flu-shot clinic scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, and had to cancel when we couldn't get the vaccine," Safeway manager Dave Lyons said.
Bashas' and Walgreens canceled similar clinics this week for the same reason.
Centers for Disease Control officials said, however, that the shortage will soon be over. They expect the full 75 million doses that are set for nationwide distribution this season to be ready for delivery in two to four weeks.
But despite the two-month delay, local health-care professionals are not bracing for a flu epidemic.
"We're not expecting this to be any different than the past two or three years, as far as hospital services," PRMC Chief Nursing Officer Karen Amon-Hinshaw said.
When the vaccines finally become available in the Rim country, Mogollon Health Alliance and hospital officials said they will promptly schedule another flu-shot clinic.
Who needs a flu vaccine?
Because vaccines for influenza are only 70- to 90-percent effective, and because the symptoms are common and bearable, many people figure there's little harm in going without the vaccine. And many are right.
But doctors say that for certain groups, flu poses the risk of serious, even fatal, complications.
Those at risk include:
People with cancer or immunological disorders, or people who take medicine to suppress the immune system, such as the recipients of transplanted organs.
People with heart or lung disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, kidney disease, anemia or severe asthma.
People 65 or older.
People who live with a member of any of the above groups, or who work in a health facility.
The vaccine contains dead specimens of the flu virus. They don't make you sick, but they activate antibodies in your system that fight the virus when it strikes you.
Flu vaccines vary year by year, depending on what strains of the virus are expected to circulate. That's why revaccination is required annually.