Flu vaccine in short supply after shutdown | NevadaAppeal.com

Flu vaccine in short supply after shutdown

Robyn Moormeister

If you’re healthy, don’t bother getting a flu shot this year.

That’s what local health care providers are telling Carson City residents in the wake of Tuesday’s sudden and drastic drop in the nationwide flu shot supply.

“Certainly we can address high-risk people, but we’re asking healthy people to wait,” said Cheri Glockner, spokeswoman for Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

The U.S. vaccine supply was chopped in half, down to 54 million, when British health authorities shut down a major distributor of the vaccine because of possible contamination Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has released a mandate for health providers to use the vaccines only on high risk groups.

High risk groups include toddlers aged 6-23 months, adults 65 and older, people 2-64 with underlying chronic medical conditions, all women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities and children 6-18 months who are on chronic aspirin therapy.

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Health-care workers with direct patient care, and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old are also categorized high risk.

Now that healthy people are being asked to defer, health-care providers fear an adverse reaction from the public.

“Unfortunately, when you announce a vaccine shortage, it will increase demand,” said Nevada Health Division Epidemiologist Randall Todd. “People start to think, ‘Because it’s in short supply maybe I should get it.'”

Glockner agreed interest will rise. The hospital will administer its 7,000 vaccines on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said.

The hospital will hold four flu shot clinics originally scheduled before the shortage, but only people with a high risk of health complications from the flu should appear.

Carson City Health Department Director Daren Winkelman said his department will also hold its previously scheduled emergency preparedness flu shot clinic at Carson High School Oct. 16, but only high-risk participants need apply.

Todd said more flu vaccines may be available in February, but in the meantime, people foregoing their flu shots this year can take extra measures to avoid getting sick.

Tried-and-true preventative steps include hand-washing, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and staying home from school with the flu.

“We all think we are so critical at our jobs that they can’t possibly make it without us,” Todd said, “but it’s important to know that when you go to work with the flu, you’re exposing other people.”

Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at rmoormeister@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.