Archive for Friday, December 17, 2004

Flu shot doses may be wasted

December 17, 2004


— Two months after the government recommended that scarce flu shots be reserved for people most at risk, health officials are now worried that tens of thousands of doses could go to waste, and they are considering easing the restrictions.

The demand for flu shots has turned out to be lower than expected because the flu season has been mild so far. Also, it turns out that more than half of all elderly or chronically ill adults have not even tried to get vaccinated because they figured no shots would be available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices plans to hold an emergency conference call today to discuss whether to amend its earlier response to the vaccine shortage and recommend that more people be allowed to get shots.

"Many of us are now concerned we will not use vaccine supplies. The only sin this season is to leave vaccine on the shelf," said Dr. William Schaffner, an influenza vaccine expert and head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

The problem is that a flu shot is only good for the flu season it is made for. Any excess must be disposed of at the end of the season. The flu season begins in the fall and can last through April.

The medical center at Vanderbilt said it had vaccinated most of its high-risk patients and still had 3,000 doses left over. Health officials in California, Colorado and Washington have expressed concerns similar to Schaffner's.

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