Portage County’s flu shot supply not hurt

Missy Pollock

Vaccinations still meet past demands despite shipping problems, low production

Last year there was a shortage of flu vaccinations; this year enough doses have been made, but problems with shipping make it difficult for some places to receive flu shots.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site, there are enough vaccinations to meet past consumer demands, which usually has been around 70 to 75 million doses. It expects to distribute more than 81 million doses by the end of November, which will be the total supply available this flu season.

But Chiron Corporation, a manufacturer of vaccinations, recently announced that it will not be able to produce as much vaccine as it originally anticipated because of problems at the company’s vaccine facility in Liverpool, England.

The hold up is that Chiron Corporation was FDA approved and had to go into quality control, said Kelly Engelhart, nursing director of Portage County Health Department. Delays related to correcting the problems have hurt a lot of companies that ordered from Chiron.

Providers and distributors who ordered from Chiron will receive less vaccine than they ordered. But not everyone ordered the shots from Chiron; there are still more doses produced this year than were available last year.

The DeWeese Health Center ordered 1,000 shots last March and received them all in the first shipment, said Shelly Verba, assistant nurse manager at the DeWeese Health Center.

The health center held a flu shot clinic on Nov. 2, and gave about 600 shots, Verba said.

Many of the people who went to the DeWeese Health Center flu clinic this year said their doctor’s office had not received the shots, Verba said.

Since the semester is almost over, and the flu hasn’t hit yet, Verba said, the health center is debating if it should order more. Currently, 200 shots remain, but they are available by appointment only.

“Generally when students go home for break, they bring the flu back with them,” Verba said.

The Portage County Health Department has not been affected by the shipping delays because the Ohio Department of Health provides all local health departments the shots.

“It has affected some agencies and nursing homes in the county,” Engelhart said, “but we have tried to help to get the vaccination to them.”

The department is working with the centers that have been affected by the shipping problems to encourage the centers to target high priority people. It is also supplying the vaccine to the centers’ patients.

The shots have been distributed twice – at the end of October and middle of November.

While October and November are the months when many people get their flu shots; the influenza season usually does not peak in Ohio until the end of January or early February, Engelhart said.

“Flu season is a time-sensitive creature,” Engelhart said. “We try to get everyone vaccinated by the end of December.”

So far the Portage County Health Department has given more than 3,500 of the about 4,000 flu shots available.

Portage County Health Department is almost out of vaccinations, but Engelhart said she has requested additional doses.

The demand has not increased in Portage County this year, and the majority of people who will receive the shot have already. About 30 to 40 percent of the population in Portage County receive flu shots, Engelhart said.

For more information about flu shot shipping problems, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/flu.

Contact student affairs reporter Missy Pollock at [email protected].