Record Number of Flu Vaccines To Be Available This Season
A record number of seasonal flu vaccinations -- 100 million -- is expected to be available for the 2006-2007 flu season beginning next month, prompting CDC officials on Wednesday to urge U.S. residents to be inoculated this year, the Baltimore Sun reports (Rockoff, Baltimore Sun, 10/5).
In the 2004-2005 flu season, vaccine manufacture Chiron produced 50% less vaccine than expected due to contamination problems, and it also distributed fewer vaccines than projected last season, leading to vaccine shortfalls in recent years (Sevrens Lyons, San Jose Mercury News, 10/5).
This year, 26 million doses were shipped in September, and another 50 million are expected to be shipped in October, CDC Director Julie Gerberding said. Four manufacturers will supply the vaccine this season, compared with two last season.
CDC this year expanded its flu shot recommendations to include children between the ages of two and five, in addition to the longstanding recommendation to vaccinate children ages six months to 23 months (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/4). Gerberding also noted that CDC recommends vaccinations for adults age 50 and older, individuals with chronic illnesses and their relatives, and health care workers (Baltimore Sun, 10/5).
"We're encouraging anyone who wishes to avoid getting influenza to become vaccinated,'' CDC spokesperson Curtis Allen said (San Jose Mercury News, 10/5).
Gerberding said, "Our supply is good this year and we're optimistic ... that we will ultimately be able to deliver all that flu vaccine" in a timely manner (Pugh, Miami Herald, 10/5).
William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said he would like U.S. residents to seek out the vaccine since the supply is so plentiful, adding, "We hope this is not an embarrassment of riches. We would like to get the vaccine used" (Baltimore Sun, 10/5).
A survey released Wednesday by CDC found that only about one-third of children between the ages of six months and two years are vaccinated. A separate survey conducted by state health departments found that roughly 48% of children in that age group are being vaccinated.
Jeanne Santoli, a pediatrician at the CDC, said, "The real message is, no matter what survey you look at, we're nowhere near protecting the number of children that we're supposed to" (Freking, AP/Albany Times Union, 10/4).
Another survey, conducted by NFID, found that of 1,014 respondents, nearly half said they will not be vaccinated this season. Of that group, 43% did not think the flu was serious enough to warrant vaccination, 37% were unconcerned with becoming ill from the flu and 26% were unconcerned with spreading the flu.
Noting the number of hospital stays and deaths that result from the flu every year, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said, "That's a lot of hospitalizations, a lot of deaths, a lot of health care costs that we know how to prevent" (Miami Herald, 10/4).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday reported on the flu vaccine supply. The segment includes comments from Mark Mlotek of Henry Schein, Inc., a major distributor of flu vaccine to physician offices; Santoli; and family physicians (Knox, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. Expanded NPR coverage is available online.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.