Health Officials Prepare for Flu Season

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

September 14, 2005

Flu season is just around the corner and the government is urging high risk patients to get vaccinated now. Health officials don't want to see the problems caused by last year's shortage.

Last year's flu vaccine shortage created long lines and plenty of frustration.

"We can send a man to the moon, but we can't get a flu vaccine to our citizens," said Zachary Thompson, Former Dallas Co. Health Director.

This year the government wants to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

"This year we want to make sure that we get vaccine to the people who need it the most first, said Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Center for Disease Control.

Federal health officials are getting out in front of the flu season. They're urging high risk patients to get vaccinated within the next six weeks. That includes the elderly, children, pregnant women and anyone with an underlying medical condition. Everyone else will eligible for a shot at the end of October.

"This gives us a good solid month to concentrate on people who need the vaccine the most,"said Gerberding.

In 2004 all U.S. flu shots came from just two companies. Supplies were cut in half when the Chiron corporation was shut down. This year four different companies are providing vaccinations. Most hospitals expect to get a full supply. But some places, like the Cleveland Clinic, haven't received their shots yet.

"This year it's a little late and hopefully there will be no shortage," said Dr. Sheriff Mossad of the Cleveland Clinic.

The government believes there will be enough shots, but doesn't want to give any guarantees. They learned last year just how quickly things can change.

Health officials expect between 70 and 100 million doses to be available depending on how much Chiron can supply this year.

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