- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

State and local health departments will soon receive additional doses of the much-needed flu vaccine, but health officials say the new shipments won’t be enough to meet the needs of all high-risk patients.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week that they will ship the last 10.3 million doses to state health departments through January.

About 7.2 million doses will be apportioned among states based on their number of high-risk patients and the number of doses they already have received. About 3.1 million doses will be distributed to states to fulfill contracts with vaccine manufacturers. The CDC will hold in reserve about 1.3 million doses to be distributed in case of emergency.

The shipments are part of an initial effort by the CDC and vaccine manufacturer Aventis Pasteur to ration an estimated 22.4 million doses of the flu vaccine to the country’s high-risk populations.

Virginia health officials estimate that the state will receive about 232,000 of the 10.3 million doses, but cautioned that shots will be given on a limited basis.

“It’s important to make sure people know that not all of that [number] will be available for the general public,” said Lucy Caldwell, Northern Virginia spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. “It will go to nursing homes first, and then local health departments will be coordinating how the rest of their percentage of the vaccine will be distributed.”

D.C. health officials said the city will receive 8,490 additional doses. Maryland officials expect to get an additional 135,000.

The U.S. flu vaccine supply was curtailed when the British government on Oct. 5 recalled 48 million doses by London-based manufacturer Chiron Corp. CDC officials said 61 million doses of vaccine, including 3 million doses of the nasal spray FluMist, would be available this flu season. The season generally begins as early as October and lasts as late as May.

The flu season this year is off to a slower start than last year, easing some fears about the vaccine shortage. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said 29 states have seen only sporadic flu activity.

“We’re not seeing the widespread activity we were seeing this time last year, but influenza is unpredictable,” Dr. Gerberding said Tuesday.

Health officials in the Washington area already received additional doses from their state or city health departments in the past several weeks. Those doses are not part of the 10.3 million that will be sent out.

Arlington health officials said they are giving most of the 1,970 doses they received last week from the state Department of Health to private physicians. But officials said the supply of shots will not meet the demand of patients.

“The [remaining doses are] going to physicians because they know best who their highest-risk patients are,” said Elissa Laitin, an epidemiologist with Arlington County Public Health. “Unfortunately, those doses aren’t enough to cover everyone in Arlington County who falls into a high-risk category.”

Prince George’s County health officials said they soon will have more than 2,800 doses of flu vaccine available for at-risk residents.

The county has 1,450 available doses from its initial order, said Dr. Frederick J. Corder, the county’s chief health officer. It will get 1,400 more doses within the next week from the Minnesota Multi-State Contract Alliance for Pharmacy.

Dr. Corder said at-risk residents must schedule an appointment today with the county’s health department to participate in vaccination clinics, which will be held Nov. 20 and Nov. 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

County residents can call 301/583-3100 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to schedule an appointment for adults or 301/883-7230 to schedule an appointment for children.

Fairfax County health officials on Monday will begin giving the 10,000 doses of vaccine they received from the Virginia Department of Health to doctors. Loudoun County health officials will distribute their 2,000 doses of the adult vaccine to high-risk patients at a clinic on Nov. 20.

In Alexandria, John Clizbe, emergency planner for the city’s health department, said officials also decided to let private doctors distribute the city’s 1,900 doses of vaccine to their patients. He said physicians have been instructed to use tighter standards than those recommended by the CDC to determine who was at high risk of getting the flu.

Montgomery County health officials last week held a lottery to determine which high-risk patients would receive one of the county’s 800 available flu shots. Health officials are distributing the remaining shots to those lottery winners who couldn’t get the shots last week.

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