Flu Shot Shortage Hits Rim Country

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Laboratory contamination across the Atlantic will mean a flu shot shortage in Payson, according to local vaccine providers and Payson Regional Medical Center.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that British regulators suspended the license of Chiron Corporation, a major flu vaccine manufacturer, because of contamination to their supply. This means the nation will have about half the number of vaccines expected this flu season.

Diversified Solutions, the largest vaccine provider in Payson, announced Wednesday, that due to Chiron's problems, they will not be receiving 7,000 vaccines they ordered a year ago.

"We have suspended all of our flu clinics until further notice," Diversified Solutions owner Mary Jo Oft said. "We've been on a waiting list since August to get 3,000 doses from the only other flu manufacturer (Aventis Pasteur in Pennsylvania). When we get the word that we will receive any of that order, we will contact all the people who have scheduled with us. Right now there are no guarantees."

Oft said the shortage could have a devastating effect on Payson's high-risk populations.

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A crowd gathers at Walgreens in Payson Wednesday in hopes of receiving some of the last remaining flu shots in town.

"So much of the elderly and high-risk populations of Payson have come to depend on us for supplying the vaccines and so many of them will not be able to receive them this year," Oft said.

Marketing Director for Payson Regional Medical Center, Cory Houghton, said they are doing everything they can to get vaccines, but added vulnerable populations, like the elderly and young children, should take advantage of any available alternative clinics.

"We're doing our best to get more vaccines," Houghton said. "But, it's not looking good at this time. In past years, we've been able to count on more vaccine coming in, albeit late. I don't think we are going to see that this year. We are asking people who are normally healthy not to get the flu shot this year."

Houghton said the country will have a projected 54 million doses of the vaccine and that there are between 90 million and 120 million high-risk people in the U.S.

"It should be stressed that the high-risk populations should be allowed to get the vaccine," Oft said. "What's really sad is that there is going to be such a crush to get the vaccine and a lot of elderly people are not up to that kind of ordeal."

Houghton said the hospital staff will be meeting to decide how to distribute what vaccines they have and they may directly contact those at greatest risk to get any available shots.

Judy Baker, executive director of the Mogollon Health Alliance, said flu shots will no longer be available at the Nov. 6 Community Health Fair at Payson High School.

Baker said the supplier for the health fair, Mullen Corp., closed their clinic on Thursday and said they will not have vaccines available for the rest of the year.

"We are afraid that some people will panic and there are no indications that this year's flu is going to be any worse than it has been in previous years," Houghton said. "There are also anti-viral medications that can lessen the severity of flu symptoms if taken right after symptoms begin. There are many things you can do to avoid getting the flu and we need to be proactive."

Craig Mathews, director of The Apothecary Shop, said his pharmacy will have the intranasal vaccine, FluMist, available for healthy people between the ages of 17 and 49 or those with a doctor's prescription.

The Health Department of Gila County has announced that it will not be holding any flu clinics this year.

The county has a pending order for a pediatric vaccine from the state, but the delivery date and amount is unknown at this time.

To contact the Mogollon Health Alliance, call (928) 472-2588

Diversified Solutions, (928) 472-3388.

The Apothecary Shop (928) 468-8299

State Health Department, www.azdhs.gov/flu, or (800) 352-3792.

Priority Groups for flu vaccine

  • all children ages 6 months to 24 months
  • adults age 65 years and older
  • those ages 2 to 64-years-old with chronic medical conditions
  • pregnant women
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • health care workers and day care providers who work directly with high-risk populations.

To avoid the flu

  • avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • stay home when you are sick
  • cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • wash your hands often with hand sanitizer or soap
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

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