Flu Vaccine 2000- Why The Shortage?

First of all, there is not going to be a "shortage" of the flu (influenza) vaccine this year!

That's right. You heard it from MedicineNet.com. There is NOT going to be a shortage of the flu vaccine for Y2K.

So, what IS the problem? There IS going to be a "delay" in getting the vaccine to those that need it.

Here's the scoop.

Two unfortunate problems occurred coincidentally that have lead to the delay. First, the production was of too low a yield for a particular new strain of the virus for some of the vaccine manufacturers. Therefore, it took longer to produce an adequate amount of vaccine that is powerful enough to guard against this strain (influenza A H3N2 ). Second, two of the major companies of flu vaccine had manufacturing problems, so that their production was simply unavailable.

According to information provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): "Based on information received from manufacturers, the FDA currently estimates that the total number of doses of vaccine available for administration will ultimately be approximately 75 million doses in 2000-2001. This compares with approximately 74 million doses distributed in 1999-2000. While a major vaccine shortage has not occurred, and supplies of vaccine should ultimately be sufficient to allow vaccination of high-risk individuals, there will be delays in the distribution of the vaccine. In most years, the majority of flu vaccine is available by October. However, due to a variety of factors (see below), in 2000-2001, the majority of flu vaccine will likely become available considerably later, e.g., in November-December. As a result, temporary shortages could occur, depending on supply and demand."

The current estimated supply is based on the most recent information that the FDA has received from the vaccine manufacturers and is potentially subject to change.

Accordingly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended the following:

"...as influenza vaccine becomes available, vaccination efforts should be focused on persons in the following groups at high risk of complications from influenza as well as their close contacts and health care workers:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older.
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities with residents of any age who have chronic medical conditions.
  • Adults and children aged 6 months and older who have chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, including asthma.
  • Adults and children aged 6 months and older who have required regular medical follow-up or hospitalization during the past year because of chronic metabolic diseases (including diabetes mellitus), kidney dysfunction, blood disorders (hemoglobinopathies), or immune system problems (immunocompromised, e.g., HIV infection, immunosuppressed by medication, chemotherapy or radiation therapy).
  • Children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and therefore might be at risk for developing Reye Syndrome after influenza infection.
  • Women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season.

"ACIP has also recommended that, to optimize the availability of vaccine to these high risk individuals, health care providers and other organizations delay the implementation of organized vaccination programs for non-high risk groups until November 2000 or later.

ACIP further recommends that vaccine providers continue to administer the vaccine after mid-November as additional supplies become available, and for as long as the influenza season continues, because the vaccine can still provide substantial protective benefits to high risk individuals and others."


Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004