Surges in Demand for Flu Vaccination Reported Nationwide
Health officials and companies that administer flu vaccination clinics are reporting a "surge in demand for flu shots," possibly driven by "sporadic vaccine shortages and fears of a flu pandemic," USA Today reports. Steve Wright, director of Wellness Services at Maxim Health Systems, which vaccinates about two million people annually at centers in retail locations, said the company has cancelled between 3,300 and 3,600 clinics this year because it does not have enough vaccine. Demand for vaccine this year has increased 30% to 40% compared with 2003, Wright said. Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturer Chiron, which to date has shipped five million doses to the U.S. this season after shipping no doses last season because of contamination problems, expects it will not meet its previous projection of 18 million doses.
Other manufactures are meeting projections on schedule, CDC spokesperson Lola Russell said. GlaxoSmithKline has shipped 7.5 million doses, while Sanofi Pasteur has delivered 51 million doses and expects to ship 62 million in total, Russell said. In addition MedImmune has shipped one million doses of its nasal spray vaccine and plans to deliver two million more. Demand increased by 30% after Oct. 24, when CDC lifted its recommendations saying only individuals in high-risk categories should receive vaccine, Russell said. According to Wright, "There was a lot of pent-up energy ready to go, all the people in the non-high risk categories."
Mary Young, infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University Hospital, said, "This year, because of all the talk about avian influenza, people seem more eager to get flu vaccine. I'm not sure if there's confusion about the two, or if they just understand the seriousness of influenza." The flu vaccine does not protect against the H5N1 avian flu strain that is causing some public health concern (Manning, USA Today, 11/9).