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Health Department scrambling after news of shortages

PARK HILLS – The news of major flu shot shortages for the 2004-05 influenza season in the United States has the St. Francois County Health Department scrambling. The news came on Tuesday after British authorities suspended the license of Chiron Corp. for three months because of problems at its vaccine manufacturing plant in Liverpool, England.

The action means the company cannot supply any flu vaccine during that time. Chiron further said it would not provide any vaccines this year. The action is expected to reduce the number of available flu shots by one half.

“This is a major blow,” said Jane Howard, Immunization Coordinator with the St. Francois County Health Department. “Now, vaccinating everybody like we had hoped is not going to be possible. We are going to have to restrict our vaccinations to residents of St. Francois County only. We originally ordered 5,000 doses of the flu shot so anyone who would want to get vaccinated could. At this point we have gotten 2,500 doses and I don’t know if we will get the rest.”

Howard said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking healthy adults to voluntarily forego their flu shots this year and have also issued interim recommendations for influenza vaccination during the 2004-05 season.

“We plan to use the guidelines set forth by the CDC,” Howard said.”

Priority groups that have been identified by the CDC for influenza vaccination include children aged 6-23 months, adults aged 65 years and older, persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children aged 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, health-care workers involved in direct patient care and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 years of age.

The St. Francois County Health Department will be offering the flu vaccination from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 15. Medicaid or Medicare can be billed for the vaccinations or for those without insurance, the health department is asking for $15 for each vaccination.

Howard said if there is enough vaccines left after Oct. 15, the health department is planning to go forward with its plans for the vote and vaccinate clinics to be held on Nov. 2.

For more information call (573) 431-1947.

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