Originally created 10/07/04

Shot providers feel sting of shortage



It is readily apparent that Alice Outlaw does not enjoy her annual flu shot. Mrs. Outlaw, a member of University Hospital's Volunteer Board, displayed some remarkable facial contortions during her vaccination Wednesday. But it's something "you just have to bite the bullet and do," she said.

In a stroke of good fortune in the face of a nationwide shortage, University decided to order 50 percent more of the shots this year after running out last year, and they have "every bit" of their 7,000 flu shots already on hand, said Rosemary Dudley, the administrative manager for Employee Health.

"We're fortunate, and our infection control department has advised to go right ahead with what we always do," in vaccinating employees, she said. "Our patient population is very much at risk, so we don't want to spread it to them."

The potential U.S. supply of flu shots was effectively cut in half Tuesday when the British government yanked the license of vaccine-maker Chiron Corp. over poor manufacturing practices with its Fluvirin shot. The company had expected to ship up to 48 million shots this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking healthy adults to voluntarily forgo the shot to ensure that older adults and young children more at risk from the flu could get them.

In a conference call Wednesday, the Georgia Division of Public Health got pledges from all of its health district directors to only vaccinate the high-risk group, spokesman Richard Quartarone said.

"We're working to get the vaccine to the people that either could die from the disease or get very sick and hospitalized from the disease," he said.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced it will also restrict the 128,000 shots it has received so far to those in the high-risk category.

Georgia will also work with its districts to make sure that those who are getting their orders filled by Aventis Pasteur, the other big manufacturer, are sharing with those who ordered from Chiron or are not getting their shots, Mr. Qaurtarone said.

The state is hoping to eventually get about 413,000 of the 669,000 it had originally ordered and has already received 130,000, Mr. Quartarone said.

With 2 to 3 million in that high-risk category in Georgia, the state is urging private providers to also prioritize the shots.

"With just the amount of what we have in public health, we obviously will come up short," Mr. Quartarone said.

The Columbia County Health Department will still have its scheduled clinic Friday with the 250 doses it has left, but those doses will be for only the high-risk patients, facility administrator Phyllis Roland said.

"That's until we run out, and I can imagine, as bad as it's been, that it may run out very early in the morning," she said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

ARE YOU AT RISK?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging providers to prioritize flu shots for those at greatest risk, including:

  • People older than 65 or residents of long-term care facilities

  • Children 6 to 23 months old

  • Pregnant women

  • Anyone 6 months and older with chronic lung or heart conditions, or those in and out of facilities to receive care for certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes

  • Children ages 6 months and older on long-term aspirin therapy

  • Those who care for the high-risk population or who are capable of transmitting flu to them, such as parents of a child younger than 6 months
  • Where to go

  • Columbia County Health Department, 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. or until the vaccine runs out, Friday, Evans Government Complex. Shots are only for those who fall into the high-risk category.

  • University Hospital Seniors Club, 9 a.m. to noon, Oct. 20 and 27, University Community Resource Center, 4106 Columbia Road. Shots cost $10 but are free with a Medicare card.

  • Prompt Care clinics at University Hospital Medical Center-Evans, 447 N. Belair Road, and University Hospital Medical Center-South Richmond County, 3121 Peach Orchard Road. The Augusta center will not offer shots until next week. Shots cost $20 at South Richmond and $15 at Evans. Both can file insurance claims.

  • Aiken County Health Department, 828 Richland Ave., 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Oct. 13, 20 and 27. Cost is $15 or free for those with a Medicare or Medicaid card.

  • North Augusta Health Department, 802 E. Martintown Road, Suite 170, North Augusta, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15, and 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 29.