A nasal flu vaccine is being made available to public health agencies at a reduced price, but Kansas and Douglas County health officials haven't decided whether they would try to obtain it.
The federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta are purchasing the nasal vaccine from its maker, FluMist, for about half of the regular wholesale single-dose price of $46.
The nasal vaccine was sought because of a nationwide shortage of the vaccine administered by shots, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said.
"Usually we don't see much interest in the nasal mist by the counties because of its cost and because it should only be used by people who are healthy and between the ages of 5 and 49," said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
That would keep people who are in the high-risk flu category from using the nasal vaccine, health officials said. People in the high-risk categories are children between the ages of 6 and 23 months; those over the age of 65 with chronic health problems and women at least three months pregnant.
The Douglas County Health Department will await state health officials' advice concerning the nasal vaccine, said Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses. But she didn't rule out its use.
"Basically, our philosophy is to try to get as many people vaccinated as possible," she said.
The Health Department administered the last of its regular flu vaccine Tuesday, Schnitker said. She didn't know when more would be obtained.
The state, however, will distribute 900 to 1,000 doses of new vaccine by January to counties that especially need it. Douglas County is one of about 50 counties slated to receive some vaccine, according to a list the state released Tuesday.
The flu struck hard and early in Kansas as well as much of the rest of the nation. So far, four people have died in Kansas from the flu, and 334 have died from complications from flu or pneumonia.
In November, Lawrence Memorial Hospital's emergency room received 91 patients suffering from the flu, and seven were admitted, hospital officials said.
As of Tuesday, the hospital already had seen 119 flu patients and admitted 14 during December.