Seasonal flu vaccine in short supply

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Lincoln County Health Department was planned from thebeginning to be the only local distributor of the H1N1 swine fluvaccine, but recently it has also become the only place to pick upthe seasonal flu vaccine.

Almost all local health care establishments, from King’sDaughters Medical Center down to the pharmacy at Walgreens, havealready used the limited supply of seasonal flu vaccine they had onhand, and have been informed by their distributors that no morevaccine will be delivered. Local physicians and pharmacists saidthe handful of major companies that produce seasonal flu vaccinehave devoted their resources to producing the forthcoming swine fluvaccine, and seasonal flu vaccine quantities are limited.

“We’re out of it. We have none,” said KDMC Community EducationCoordinator Kim Bridge. “We only got a partial shipment to startoff with.”

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Bridge said KDMC received and administered approximately 700doses of seasonal flu vaccine before supplies dried up, about 70percent of the yearly average of 1,000 doses the hospital orders.He said KDMC employees who missed the first round of inoculationsare being directed to the health department.

“I wasn’t even able to finish my schoolteachers this year like Iusually do,” Bridge said. “I hate it, because I thought it was aservice for the community we’ve done really well.”

Dr. Joe Moak of the Moak-Massengill clinic said hisestablishment received no seasonal flu vaccine this year despiteplacing an order for 500 doses. It’s the first time in 27 years theclinic will be unable to vaccinate its patients, he said.

“The company that we deal with notified us about one week beforewe were anticipating our 500 does that we wouldn’t be receivingours,” Moak said. “Long story short, we never received any seasonalflu vaccine and we will not receive any swine flu vaccineeither.”

Brookhaven’s Walgreens has administered the seasonal flu vaccinefor the last two months, but pharmacy technician Valerie Smith saidher store’s supply has been exhausted and no more will bedelivered.

“The Walgreens in Hazlehurst is the only store giving the flushots,” she said.

Mississippi State Department of Health Director ofCommunications Liz Sharlot said local health departments have theseasonal flu vaccine and will continue to replenish their supplies.Inoculations are $25 for adults and $10 for children.

“Currently, we do have seasonal flu vaccine available at all ofour county health departments and we expect another large shipmentin by the end of the month,” she said. “All shipments should be outby the end of November.”

Sharlot said providers other than county health departmentsshould receive more shipments of seasonal flu vaccine and waspuzzled when informed that Brookhaven establishments have been toldby their suppliers that shipments have been ended.

“They need to report that to the (Centers for Disease Controland Prevention),” she said. “Everyone should rest assured – we haveplenty.”

The current lack of seasonal flu vaccine is not critical,Sharlot said, because Mississippi’s flu season doesn’ttraditionally start until the end of December.

When both the seasonal and swine flu vaccines are madeavailable, people should receive them both, said KDMC ChiefPharmacist Clyde Sbravati.

“Based on statistics, we should start seeing increased cases ofthe seasonal flu as the flu season progresses, and the swine flujust hit us and there’s no resistance out there, so you’re seeingit year-round,” he said. “Everyone should get both vaccines, andthere should be plenty to go around.”

Moak worries those who remember an isolated incident in 1976 inwhich a handful of people contracted a neurological illness fromswine flu vaccinations will refuse the inoculation. The incidentoccurred when a relatively small number of people contractedGuillain-Barré syndrome, a form of paralysis that is usuallytemporary but did result in some deaths that year.

“The people who had that severe reaction, almost all of thosepatients had a prior food poisoning illness called campylobacter,”Moak said. “If you’ve been sick within the last month with foodpoisoning or a major illness, hold off on the vaccine, tell yourphysician, use common sense.”

Otherwise, Moak pointed out the outbreak was 30 years ago andthe modern swine flu vaccine is more advanced and better produced.He recommended seasonal and swine flu vaccination.