Flu shot clinics canceled after vaccine delay

Delays in vaccine shipments have forced the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to cancel its flu shot clinics until further notice.

“We are expecting to get more vaccine. This is just a temporary outage at this time,” said Charlotte Marthaler, the health department’s director of policy and planning. She did not know when more vaccine would be received.

The delays do not mean there is a vaccine shortage, Marthaler and state health officials said. Supplies are ample, they said.

Although health officials said earlier this month that no problems were expected with vaccine distribution, the possibility existed, Marthaler said.

“It is something that occurs almost every flu season,” said Mike Heideman, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The vaccine is produced in batches and delivered to recipients in portions, Marthaler and Heideman said.

“It’s possible for some clinics to run short before the next order comes in,” Heideman said.

The county health department has received inquiries from other clinics about whether extra vaccine was available, Marthaler said. The state also has heard of some clinics receiving smaller vaccine shipments than were ordered.

“People can still get flu shots, even if it is later in the season,” Heideman said.

The health department already has administered 1,800 flu shots. The department’s first vaccination clinic was Saturday.

“That’s a pretty good number, so the good thing is people are getting the message that they need to get their flu shots,” Marthaler said.

Kansas University’s Watkins Memorial Health Center received a shipment of vaccine about a week ago and still has adequate supply, said Dr. Patricia Denning, chief of staff for Student Health Services.

Health experts say it’s also important to practice good health habits to prevent the flu, such as hand-washing and covering the mouth when coughing.