- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Area residents stood in long lines yesterday at grocery stores to receive flu-vaccine shots after hearing reports that the supply could be cut in half this year. The lines were filled mostly with the elderly, and few, if any, people appeared to ignore a request by health officials to save the shots for the young, old or sick.

Many of the shots administered yesterday were at Safeway and Giant Food grocery stores with pharmacies. Some residents arrived before the stores opened.

“We brought our lunch,” James Kelly, 65, said. “We didn’t have this problem last year.”

Dr. Frederick Corder, health officer for Prince George’s County, acknowledged yesterday that supplies were limited and said 80 percent of the vaccines go to private practitioners and clinics. He also said the county will give out shots “as long as supplies last.”

The supply of flu vaccines is severely limited because British authorities on Tuesday suspended the license for Chiron Corp., which makes almost half of the vaccines for the United States.

Aventis Pasteur will ship an additional 1.4 million shots to the United States to help overcome the shortage.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said Aventis Pasteur, the world’s largest manufacturer of the vaccine, agreed yesterday to make more doses available.

That means there will be about 55.4 million shots of the flu vaccine available this year, the secretary said. U.S. health officials had hoped to have 100 million doses.

Chiron, the second-largest vaccine manufacturer, had planned to provide 46 million to 48 million doses.

Those most vulnerable are people older than 65, children from 6 months to 23 months old, pregnant women, the chronically ill, health care workers helping high-risk patients, nursing-home residents and anybody who cares for or lives with babies younger than 6 months old.

Dr. Walter Faddett, director of the District’s Health Department, said that as a result of the shortage last year, medical staffers have gone through training and improvements have been made to the system.

“We’re ready for it,” he said.

About 21,000 doses were administered to D.C. residents last year, Dr. Faddett said.

In Montgomery County, only about half the 4,000 vaccine doses ordered this year were available.

“It’s a significant impact,” said Ulder Tillman, a county health officer. “All of our adult vaccines were ordered from Chiron, so all we have this season will be child vaccines.”

Some patients at the Giant on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda stood in line for more than three hours.

Yvonne Moritz, 69, had a good reason to wait so long. She recently underwent a kidney transplant.

Joyce Monk, 78, who was visiting from Sarasota, Fla., also had to wait but joked about her town’s recent travails with a series of hurricanes.

“I think they don’t have flu shots there,” she said.

Medics at the Giant store estimated that more than 500 flu shots were administered from noon to about 3 p.m.

Safeway’s supermarket in Georgetown gave out about 300 shots before closing at 1 p.m. That was one of three stores with flu clinics yesterday. Only two stores will administer flu shots today — 6500 Piney Branch Road in the District and 7595 Greenbelt Drive in Greenbelt. Medicare patients get shots for free. Others pay $19.

“We just don’t have vaccines beyond [today],” said Safeway public-relations manager Craig Muckle. “Ordinarily, we have clinics for five or six weeks.”

William Glanz contributed to this report.

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