FLU VACCINE: Govt. Warns of Possible Shortage This Fall
Manufacturing problems may contribute to a shortage of flu vaccine this fall, and shipments of the drug could be delayed by as much as a month, federal health officials warned yesterday. Speaking at a meeting of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, CDC and FDA officials also cited a "low yield of one of the vaccine's components" for the looming shortage. FDA representative Lenore Gelb said the agency asked Rochester, Mich.-based flu vaccine maker Parkedale Pharmaceuticals in March to temporarily halt production after finding manufacturing process violations. Earlier this month, the agency also seized hundreds of doses of prescription drugs and vaccines from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories in Marietta, Pa., citing breaches of federal quality standards. Although officials expect sufficient amounts of the vaccine will be made, they predict "a significant delay" in production, meaning there may not be enough vaccine available in time for the flu season, which generally begins in late fall. The CDC advisory committee is asking health care providers to consider delaying mass flu inoculation campaigns until November and is recommending that in the event of a major shortage, those at highest risk of flu-related deaths -- including seniors, women in their last two trimesters of pregnancy, those with chronic illnesses or suppressed immune systems and people in contact with high-risk groups and their providers -- receive vaccinations first. Last year, between 80 million and 85 million people were inoculated against the flu virus, which results in 20,000 deaths and more than 110,000 hospitalizations each year (Manning, USA Today, 6/23).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.