Vaccines short, but lines long | NevadaAppeal.com

Vaccines short, but lines long

by Maggie O'Neill

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Shirley Devereaux laughs as she gets her flu shot from Carson-Tahoe Hospital nurse Nicole Forsberg. An estimated 1,200 people lined up at the Carson Mall on Monday to receive their flu shots.

Due to a flu-vaccine shortage, some people waiting for flu shots at Carson Mall on Monday lined up before 7:30 a.m. and waited more than two hours for the vaccine.

“That’s why we came here early, because we thought they might run out,” said 70-year-old Carson City resident Bob Jepsen. “I expected a line, but not this big of a line.”

The Carson-Tahoe Hospital team of health officials gave out about 1,200 shots before the clinic closed at 1 p.m.

They had 2,000 dosages on hand, and expect to have the same amount at Wednesday’s clinic from noon to 4 p.m. at the mall.

Terry Long, the Carson-Tahoe Hospital flu-shot coordinator at the mall, said the British vaccine supplier Chiron Co. was shut down for having contaminated doses.

“We didn’t have a problem with vaccines last year,” Long said. “But a year or two before that we did, when Wyeth froze production.”

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The British equivalent to the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration revoked Chiron’s production license last week for unsafe manufacturing practices. That leaves the United States about 50 percent short of needed vaccines, according to the Northern Nevada Immunization Coalition.

Chiron is one of the two major vaccine providers to the United States. The other is Aventis-Pasteur, a French company, which has a facility in Pennsylvania. Wyeth stopped production in 2002 because of financial losses from unused vaccine

Ed Missineo, 67, of Dayton arrived at Carson Mall about 9 a.m. for his annual flu shot.

“In the years I haven’t got it, I’ve gotten sick in January or February,” he said.

The line nearly reached the mall doors by early morning. Missineo left to do a couple errands and returned about 11:30 a.m.

“You couldn’t even move in here this morning,” he said. “It looks reasonable now.”

Eighty-year-old Violet Jones of Carson City waited close to the end of line. She had arrived about 15 minutes earlier, and was now filling out a vaccine-shot consent form.

“I’ll wait as long as it takes,” she said. “I understand there’s going to be shortage. I don’t know if there will be or not.”

“I think it’s very, very important to get a shot early because of the shortage,” Long said. “I think it’s entirely possible the supply will be gone by the end of the month.”

Vaccines are available on a first-come, first-served basis for at-risk people, including those over 65, people with chronic conditions, nursing home residents, and women who will be pregnant during flu season, which ends in May.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.