- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico already has recorded its first flu case of the season, and state health officials have scheduled dozens of vaccination clinics from one end of the state to the other.

But officials at University of New Mexico Hospital have been forced to postpone the first of their flu-shot clinics because manufacturing issues have delayed delivery of the vaccine.

“The clinics are on hold for now, but we’re expecting a total of 45,000 shots to be delivered to us. It may be the end of the month before we get them,” hospital spokeswoman Cindy Foster said Tuesday.

Hospital officials first announced the delay last week, and they have been meeting regularly to get updates on the situation. Depending on when the vaccine arrives, there’s still a chance the hospital’s popular drive-thru clinics could be held as scheduled at the end of October.

For now, New Mexico residents have other options, including dozens of state-sponsored flu shot clinics. The first of those were held last week in Lincoln County and the Silver City area. Others are planned in Ruidoso, Tucumcari, Las Vegas, Portales and Taos County.

About 150 million doses of flu vaccine are being shipped nationwide this year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the state health department, the flu vaccine arrives in waves.

Health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated, particularly young children, pregnant women and others at risk of developing serious complications from the flu.

“The thing about flu for people to remember is it can be passed on even before people have any symptoms,” deputy state epidemiologist Joan Baumbach said. “That’s what makes it really tricky. You can think you’re being really careful with yourself and those around you are covering their cough and washing their hands, but sometimes you just don’t know that people may have it and it can be transmitted. It’s good to protect yourself.”

It’s too early to predict how severe the season will be, but Baumbach said the state initiated its provider surveillance network last week and will continue monitoring into early next year.

Last year, officials identified 235 pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths in New Mexico. Nationally, the CDC estimates that the flu kills about 24,000 Americans a year on average.

The season usually ramps up in December. Symptoms can include fever, a cough or sore throat, a runny nose, and muscle or body aches.

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