Health professionals say don’t worry about flu vaccine availability |

Health professionals say don’t worry about flu vaccine availability

by Mellisa Murphy

A delay and possible shortage in flu vaccine shipments is no cause for panic for the area’s senior citizens and others susceptible to the virus, say health officials.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control notified flu vaccine providers to expect delays in receiving flu vaccine shipments for the 2000-2001 season. Availability of the vaccine may also be reduced.

The decrease is due to a lower-than-expected yield of vaccine component and a production problem with two of the four U.S. vaccine manufacturers, according to the announcement.

“According to literature we’ve received, they’re having problems growing the strain,” said Anna Crowley, office manager for Dr. Alla Goldman, who practices in the Gardnerville Ranchos. “Every year, the symptoms get tougher to deal with because of new strains of the virus.”

A pamphlet produced by Roche Pharmaceuticals lists common flu symptoms as sudden onset, fever and chills, cough, muscle and joint pain, headache, fatigue and weakness. Some people also experience a stuffy nose and sore throat.

Though typically held in mid-October, flu vaccine providers are being urged to delay flu shot clinics until November, as well as to prioritize patients based on high-risk medical need – including persons over 65 and those most likely to develop serious and life-threatening complications from influenza.

According to Crowley, the protocol issued by the Centers for Disease Control prioritizes vaccine recipients into 65 and older and those with chronic ailments in October and November, household members and healthcare workers for chronically ill persons in December and healthy people over 50 after December.

Medical personnel and hospital administration say chances are slim for serious consequences because of a vaccine delay or shortage.

“Nevada experienced a mild flu season last year, with a peak in December the past two years,” said Robert Salcido of the Bureau of Disease Control and Intervention’s Immunization Program in Carson City.

“We’ve never really had any problem here,” said Sharon Stockman, administrator for Carson Valley Medical Center. “We order our vaccine supply way in advance, and we’ve never run out.”

“The best thing is not to panic,” said Goldman. “Drugs are available that will shorten the course of influenza if patients come in the first or second day of symptoms.”

Literature is also available explaining how to tell the symptoms of influenza from the common cold, Goldman said.

“Routine measures – including multi-vitamins and echinacea goldenseal – will help to reduce the risks of influenza,” she said.

CVMC hosts a health fair in October of each year, which makes vaccinations available to the public for a low cost. Flu shots usually are available in the emergency room, Stockman said.