- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

Health officials do not expect a flu-vaccine shortage like the one last year, when residents camped out in long lines at pharmacies and supermarkets in hopes of receiving a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that as many as 97 million doses will be available for the upcoming flu season, which runs from November to May.

“We expect there is enough flu vaccine to meet the demand,” said Lola Russell, an agency spokeswoman. “We’re generally positive about what we have.”

In October 2004, the agency was notified that almost half of the country’s flu vaccine would not be delivered.

Britain-based Chiron, a major manufacturer of the vaccine, was supposed to supply the United States with more than 40 million doses. However, the supply was recalled over concerns about contamination.

The British government suspended Chiron’s license to make the vaccines, then reinstated it in March.

Chiron announced in August that its Liverpool facility had passed U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections and that it expects to produce 18 million to 26 million doses of vaccine for this season.

Sanofi Pasteur Inc., the primary provider of vaccines in the United States, expects to have as many as 60 million doses in time for the season.

GlaxoSmithKline Inc. expects to manufacture 8 million doses. MedImmune Vaccines Inc., which makes the nasal-spray flu vaccine, projects about 3 million available doses.

So far, Maryland has ordered 144,000 doses of the vaccine, which will be distributed at 24 health departments across the state, said Greg Reed, program manager for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s center for immunization.

Virginia has ordered about 200,000 doses of the vaccine, about 20 percent of which has been received, said Laura Ann Nicolai, epidemiologist in the Virginia Department of Health’s division of immunization.

The state plans to increase its vaccination-awareness campaign this week, she said.

The most common flu symptoms are a cough, chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and a stuffy nose.

Miss Russell reports no early indications about the severity of this year’s flu season, but advised against waiting for vaccinations.

“The peak months range from December through March, but we prefer for people to get inoculated” early, she said. “Vaccines are primarily the best way to prevent getting the flu.”

Mr. Reed agreed that now is too early to gauge how bad the flu season will be.

However, he said Maryland officials plan by mid-October to have a statewide-surveillance system that includes doctors, hospitals and laboratories to monitor the number of cases.

The federal government recommends that the general public wait until Oct. 24 to get shots so people most susceptible to infection have enough time to get one.

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