In response to the nationwide flu vaccine shortage, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention is working with vaccine
manufacturers to redistribute doses from the less to the more
needy, while various local, state and national health care
providers are responding in their own ways.
On campus, Robert Winfield, director of the University Health
Service, said the University has between 3,500 and 4,500 doses of
flu vaccine to give to students. These were all obtained from
France-based Aventis-Pasteur, the only major vaccine supplier to
the United States this year.
The University also donated 300 doses to Eastern Michigan
University, which is experiencing a severe shortage because it
placed its vaccine order with Chiron, the pharmaceutical company
whose vaccines were removed from the market over contamination
Because Chiron, formerly one of the two suppliers of flu
vaccine, failed its safety inspection, only half the U.S. supply of
100 million vaccines will be distributed around the country.
In addition to the University’s stock of vaccine, UHS
decided yesterday to increase its reserve of antiviral medications
sixfold, Winfield said. Antiviral medications are used to reduce
the symptoms and duration of a flu infection.
Based on figures from previous years, the combination of both
vaccines and antivirals is “always enough to meet the
needs,” Winfield said.
With just 55 million doses of vaccine on hand, the CDC
established a set of recommendations for vaccinating only high-risk
individuals, including infants, seniors, pregnant women and health
care workers and caregivers.
While 100 million Americans still fall under these stricter
guidelines, historically only half of those identified as high-risk
individuals get vaccinated, CDC Director Julie Gerberding said in a
written release. With the media attention that the vaccine shortage
has been getting, however, some speculate that this year’s
percentage may be much higher.
Michigan, along with New Mexico, California, and Oregon, has
taken measures of its own to preserve vaccines. According to the
Michigan Department of Community Health director Janet Olszewski,
an emergency order issued by the state’s health department
would sanction health care providers for providing a flu shot to
those not considered a priority. The misdemeanor charge would be
punishable by a $200 fine and up to six months in jail.
Acknowledging the state’s emergency order, Winfield said
he would comply with the CDC guidelines. Fliers circulated by UHS
in its offices contain vaccination information on one side and an
appeal for healthy individuals to forego vaccinations on the other.
Winfield urged students to skip vaccinations this year and instead
practice good hygiene. This focus on the basics has been reiterated
by the UHS “Cover Your Cough” campaign.
For those who are at high-risk, vaccinations are currently
available for $18 at UHS every Wednesday. After Nov. 3, they will
be offered Monday through Friday.