FLU SHOT: Private Firms Receive Vaccine Before Docs
After a late start, the first shipments of influenza vaccines have been directed toward supermarkets and private corporations at the expense of doctors with high-risk patients, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. Some now-corrected manufacturing problems have delayed delivery of this year's flu vaccines. While most high-risk and many healthy individuals typically receive vaccinations by October, just two-thirds of this year's shots will be sent out before December. Since most of the 20,000 Americans killed each year by the flu fall into the high-risk category, the CDC has recommended that people at greater risk of getting the flu -- the elderly, chronically ill individuals and pregnant women -- should be vaccinated first. However, many of the first vaccine shipments have been delivered to grocery chains and corporations, where they have been administered to the "worried well," even though the CDC "insists there's no impending shortage" of the vaccine. "We want to make sure that high-risk people get vaccinated first," Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the CDC said, adding that people "are anxious and [the CDC] recognize[s] that. But ... more vaccine is on the way and it's pretty quiet right now on the influenza front." According to the CDC, healthy individuals vaccinated in November and December are at no significantly greater risk of contracting the flu than if they are vaccinated now, given that most influenza outbreaks occur in January. But while the CDC and flu vaccine manufacturers like Aventis Pasteur have publicized the recommendations to prioritize high-risk individuals, they cannot enforce them. As a result, "high-volume corporations that placed early orders may get their vaccines before many private doctors." Subsequently, the CDC has requested that corporations reserve initial doses of the influenza vaccine for high-risk workers and their families (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/24). In the case that a flu outbreak occurs earlier than expected, Aventis has set aside "some shots for priority shipment" and the CDC "has ordered 9 million vaccine doses set aside in December" to serve as a "safety cushion" for high-risk individuals (Neergaard, AP/Nando Times, 10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.