Flu Vaccine Shortage Prompts Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco Counties To Declare Emergencies
Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties on Tuesday declared local emergencies in light of the national influenza vaccine shortage, the Contra Costa Times reports (Kleffman/Silber, Contra Costa Times, 10/13). Last week, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties also declared emergencies (California Healthline, 10/12). County officials made the declarations in part to increase public awareness of the shortage and to encourage healthy residents to forgo flu inoculations this year (Vesely/Maitre, Oakland Tribune, 10/13).
Under a state order issued Friday, all health care providers must limit flu vaccinations to children ages six months to 23 months; adults ages 65 and older; people ages two to 64 with chronic medical conditions; pregnant women; nursing home residents; children taking aspirin; health care workers; out-of-home caregivers; and those with household contact with children younger than age six months (California Healthline, 10/12).
The county declarations also grant local health departments the power to seize stocks of vaccine if they are being administered to healthy, instead of high-risk, residents.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said San Francisco County could seize vaccine supplies from distributors "found to be price gouging those at high risk" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/13).
In Alameda County, the county public health agency is now allowed to maintain an inventory of the local vaccine supply; share that information with health care providers; monitor non-clinical settings where the vaccines are administered to ensure only high-risk groups are receiving the inoculations; and inform residents who are not in a high-risk group that they should forgo vaccination this year (Oakland Tribune, 10/13).
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized health officials to spend as much as $900,000 to purchase influenza vaccine doses from public and private agencies. In addition, the board approved a $1,000 contract with Public Health Foundation Enterprises to expedite paperwork necessary to purchase as many as 80,000 doses from health care providers. So far, the county has received 20,800 doses of flu vaccine.
The county has asked providers with excess vaccine to donate their supplies to the county. Health officials plan to purchase the vaccine at cost from the providers if they are unable to obtain sufficient donations. When county health officials surveyed medical providers, they did not find many with excess doses of vaccine.
However, John Schunhoff, chief of operations for county pubic health, said, "I think it's too early for providers to know whether they will have excess vaccine" (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 10/12).
Most of the flu clinics set up at supermarkets and drugstores in California are expected to run out of vaccine doses by the end of the week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials from Maxim Health Systems -- which administers clinics at Costco, Longs, Walgreens and other retailers -- said that they expect their vaccine supply to be exhausted by Saturday and that they do not know when more vaccine will be available.
Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said, "It's not like this Saturday the vaccine ends. More vaccine will become available for high-risk patients" (Pierson/Thermos, Los Angeles Times, 10/13).
This week, several health insurers in the Sacramento area -- including Health Net, Aetna and Kaiser Permanente -- announced plans to provide some coverage for the FluMist nasal flu vaccine in light of the shortage of injectable vaccine doses (Swett, Sacramento Bee, 10/13).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.