Originally created 11/11/05

Shipment of flu shots is delayed



Supply problems with one of the main flu shot manufacturers is causing spot shortages nationwide and problems for one of Augusta's largest private physician groups in getting its order filled. But unlike last year, officials said there should be plenty available later this year.

The problem again is with Chiron Corp., which has delayed some shipments or cut back others, officials said. The same company caused a shortage last year when its vaccine was found to be contaminated, essentially cutting the supply of shots in half and triggering a scramble and long lines for those that remained.

"We're sorry that we have another frustrating year for some people," said Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her mother, in fact, is among those who can't find a flu shot yet, she said.

"But the big picture here is this year, unlike last year, we expect many more doses of flu (vaccine) and there's still plenty of time for people to get vaccinated," Dr. Gerberding said. "If you can't get it right now, be persistent and patient if you can."

The Center for Primary Care clinics in Augusta learned earlier this week that it would get only about a third of its latest shipment of flu shots from Chiron, leaving them with 5,000 of the 9,000 shots they had ordered, CEO Robert Clark said.

"We thought our major shipment should have been in by now and it has not, so we're going through alternative channels to hopefully get the rest of our shipment in by Dec. 12," Dr. Clark said. "It's not a critical shortage. I think it's just a little bit of a delay."

East Central Health District got all of its 13,000 doses in already and has distributed them to the 13 county health departments, said Melba McNorrill, the child health and immunization coordinator.

"The counties I believe have been giving it out as fast as it came in," she said.

Health districts order their own shots, so the situation across Georgia is mixed, said Mike Mullet, a spokesman for the Georgia Division of Public Health. Overall, the districts have received 57 percent of the 375,000 shots they ordered, but there are no plans yet to redistribute shots or prioritize them for those at highest risk, he said.

Aiken County Health Department still has about 400 shots it is giving out by appointment and has slots available Monday and Tuesday, nursing supervisor Debbie Lotz said.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is still studying whether it needs to intervene for providers who haven't gotten shots yet, said spokeswoman Clair Boatwright.

"It's just a question of whether there's an actual shortage," she said.

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

What's Next:

There are no plans yet in Georgia or South Carolina to redistribute vaccine or restrict who can get a flu shot. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging healthy people ages 5 to 49 to get the nasal vaccine FluMist, if available.