- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

Doctors’ offices are preparing vaccination orders for the next flu season, even though the current U.S. virus is not expected to hit its peak for another month.

“I’ve got a big note on my desk to be on the phone on January 31 at noon,” said Linda Spencer, practice manager for the Countryside Family Practice in Marshall, Va.

Sanofi-Aventis SA, the largest flu-shot supplier to the United States, will start its “pre-booking” process for next season’s vaccinations at that time, with at least 50 million doses available on a first-come, first-served basis, said spokesman Len Lavenda.

Mrs. Spencer is hoping to secure 600 flu shots, twice the amount the practice gave out for this year’s flu season, from the French pharmaceutical company.

Last year, it only took several days for Sanofi-Aventis to reach 50 million orders, said Mr. Lavenda, who expects a similar situation this year.

Flu manufacturers generally start their ordering at the beginning of the year because of the long manufacturing process. Most begin production once the U.S. government in March announces the flu strains that must be used in the vaccine.

But Greg Reed, with Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said advance ordering can be daunting. “It’s a big challenge to make the assessment in January what you will need in September,” said Mr. Reed, program manager for the state’s Center for Immunization.

While Maryland’s health agency will not order from Sanofi-Aventis, Mr. Reed said he is calling doctors and local health agencies across the state to be prepared.

Other vaccine makers don’t impose the same ordering process as Sanofi-Aventis.

Instead of taking orders directly from pharmacies and physicians, Emeryville, Calif., flu-vaccine manufacturer Chiron Corp. takes orders continuously from its seven medical distributors in the United States, said spokeswoman Alison Marquiss.

The company plans to produce 40 million doses for the next flu season, she said.

GlaxoSmithKline Inc., a Research Park Triangle, N.C., drug company, is taking an undisclosed number of “pre-booking” orders on a limited basis for flu shots from now until April, said spokesman Michael Fleming.

The company plans to make more than 8 million vaccinations for the next flu season, he said.

Gaithersburg drug company MedImmune Inc. plans for its “pre-booking” to start in February, said spokeswoman Clarencia Stephens, adding that last year’s ordering process lasted several months.

The company would not disclose how much of its nasal-spray vaccine it will make for the next flu season.

Fairfax steps up nurse recruiting

The Fairfax County Health Department this week said it will host its first two job fairs in coming weeks to attract more nurses to the county.

The county’s health agency will have interviews Tuesday and Feb. 7 at its offices in Reston and Falls Church.

The agency, with the rest of the Washington area, faces a nurse shortage, with at least 12 open positions, said Sandy Graumann, assistant director for the agency’s patient care services division.

The agency, which posted event information at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/jobs/hd_openhire.htm, also will recruit nurses in March at a George Mason University job fair.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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