- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — About 75 million doses of flu vaccine will be in most doctor’s offices and clinics by the end of October — a near record amount that should prevent flu shot rationing this year, health officials said yesterday.

Overall, more than 100 million doses should be available over the next several months, beating the 95 million manufactured in 2002.

“There may still be some lines, but we really think this is promising,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads immunization programs for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The best time for vaccination is in October or November, before the flu season typically begins, CDC officials said. The vaccinations offer no protection from avian flu.

In 2004, production problems at one manufacturer caused severe shortages and hours-long lines for shots. Last September, tight supplies caused doctors to limit shots at first to people at risk of severe complications.

“This year, we’re not asking people to step aside or hold off. We think people who want to be vaccinated can be vaccinated right away,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The last time early-season supplies were as plentiful was 2003, when more than 80 million doses were distributed by the end of October. Last year, about 60 million doses were distributed by that point.

CDC officials cautioned that some clinics, doctor’s offices and other health care providers still may not receive their full allotment until November or later. It depends on which supplier or manufacturer they used and when they placed their vaccine orders, they said.

Between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu each year. The illness leads to about 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year, federal officials say.

Vaccine manufacturers this year include Sanofi Pasteur Inc., which projects 50 million doses; Novartis, which is expected to make more than 35 million doses; and GlaxoSmithKline, which is planning roughly 25 million doses.

Glaxo has two flu vaccines; one of them, FluLaval, has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Approval is expected this month, said Jennifer Armstrong, a Glaxo spokeswoman.

If FluLaval is approved, it will mean closer to 110 million total flu shot doses for the nation, Dr. Schuchat said.

In addition, MedImmune Vaccines Inc. plans to distribute about 3 million of doses of FluMist, a nasal mist recommended only for healthy people ages 5 to 49. It contains live virus, and carries a slight chance of causing flu symptoms.

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