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For the week of  October 17 - 23, 2001


Flu shots not available for few more weeks

Express Staff Writer

Most people wanting to get flu shots this fall will have to wait at least a couple more weeks, because of a nationwide delay in vaccine production.

The vaccine might be available in early November, but only for people who are at a high risk of developing serious complications if they catch the bug, said nurse Lisa Klamm, the immunization coordinator for Idahoís South Central District Health Department, which serves Blaine County.

The district might not have vaccine available for the general public until December.

Healthcare providers typically start administering the vaccine to anyone who wants it in early October. The shots help prevent the flu for six to nine months, beginning about two weeks after theyíre given.

Flu season in south-central Idaho typically hits in January, February or March, so the delay should not have a major impact on most people, Klamm said.

Getting the shots even as late as March can be beneficial, as long as a person has not already had the flu and built up a natural resistance, she said.

The shots are especially important for people over 65, women pregnant for three months or more, and those with chronic long-term health problems such as lung disease, congestive heart failure, congenital heart disease, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, sickle cell disease and HIV, she said.

Some of those people may be able to get the shots before November through their personal physicians, who may have a small amount of the limited supply expected to be available in October.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 79 million doses of the vaccine would be distributed nationally this year. By the end of October, 56 percent of the supply would be available. An additional 31 percent would be delivered in November. The final 13 percent would be delivered in December.

However, Blaine County, and the other seven counties in the health districtís territory, would get only 10 percent of its usual 6,800 doses in November, Klamm said.

A renovation project at the production facilities of Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, Inc., in Penn., interfered with production of the vaccine, which normally takes about 18 months, Klamm said. Wyeth-Ayest is the largest of three companies that produce flu vaccine in the United States.

Shots are administered for a small fee at the districtís office in Hailey and at locations where seniors gather. District nurses use small needles, not those horrible air guns.

A similar flu vaccine shortage occurred last fall after Wyeth-Ayerst had trouble producing one of the 265 types of viruses that cause the bug.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.