Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2004

Health Department will decline free FluMist vaccines

January 15, 2004


The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has 250,000 free doses of the FluMist vaccine to give to state health departments.

Counties and private health care providers can place orders for the vaccine through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment until noon Friday. But the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department isn't trying to get a piece of the pie.

"We have not requested any because of all the other providers in the community that have given the FluMist," said Barbara Schnitker, the Health Department's director of nurses. "We typically are concerned about access to vaccines and health care, and if something is being provided by another provider, we don't necessarily feel we need to offer it."

In addition, FluMist is recommended only for healthy individuals age 5 to 49, Schnitker said.

"We know people at the highest risk (for flu complications) are the elderly, people who are immuno-compromised and young children, and it can't be offered to those groups," she said.

The Health Department is directing local pharmacies and health care providers to the Web site and hot line to request doses through KDHE.

Consumers will be able to get FluMist, which previously had cost $50 to $70, for just an administration fee.

The influenza virus, which struck hard in late 2003 and early this year, caused a nationwide injectable flu vaccine shortage. Those vaccines still are in short supply. The flu outbreak seems to be winding down, but Schnitker said it was too early to say the season had peaked.

"That's because the flu strains can be unpredictable," she said. "While we had an early level of cases in large amounts, and now it seems to be weaning, that doesn't mean it couldn't increase again before the season is over."

The CDC recently lowered Kansas' flu-activity rating from widespread to local, a drop from the highest to third-highest on a six-level scale. But even at the height of the recent scramble for flu vaccines, demand for FluMist remained low, Schnitker said.

"I expect because it's a more costly option, and when the flu became widespread and the demand for injectable flu vaccines increased, only some people turned to the FluMist," she said. "There still are probably a lot of (FluMist) doses left, which has probably allowed the company to do this."

KDHE spokeswoman Sharon Watson said the CDC hadn't allocated Kansas a specific amount of FluMist yet.

As of Wednesday evening, KDHE had received orders for 270 doses of FluMist, mostly from hospitals, medical offices and one other county health department.

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