Flu Vaccine Shortage Alert

Oct 5, 2004 -- The US. faces a significant shortage in flu vaccine. This became evident today after Chiron Corp., manufacturer of the influenza vaccine Fluvirin, announced it is unable to release flu vaccine for at least 3 months. Fluvirin, which is manufactured in England, accounts for almost half of the total US influenza vaccine supply.

It has been recommended that the available flu vaccine be reserved for the following high-risk groups, which are considered of equal priority:

  • Children 6 months through 23 months of age.
  • Adults 65 years of age and older.
  • People with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease.
  • Women pregnant during the flu season.
  • Residents of chronic care facilities.
  • Children on chronic aspirin therapy.
  • Healthcare workers with direct patient contact
  • Anyone who cares for or lives with children 0-6 months of age

These guidelines have been jointly agreed upon by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), and the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians).

The inhaled flu vaccine FluMist is appropriate for healthy people 5-49 years of age in close contact with infants 0-6 months of age and for health care workers who are not in contact with severely immunocompromised persons.

Below are two press releases. The first press release is from the CDC (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the second press release is from the Chiron Corporation.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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Interim Influenza Vaccination Recommendations - 2004-05 Influenza Season

On October 5, 2004, CDC was notified by Chiron Corporation that none of its influenza vaccine (Fluvirin®) would be available for distribution in the United States for the 2004-05 influenza season. The company indicated that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom, where Chiron's Fluvirin vaccine is produced, has suspended the company's license to manufacture Fluvirin vaccine in its Liverpool facility for 3 months, preventing any release of this vaccine for this influenza season. This action will reduce by approximately one half the expected supply of trivalent inactivated vaccine (flu shot) available in the United States for the 2004-05 influenza season.

The remaining supply of influenza vaccine expected to be available in the United States this season is nearly 54 million doses of Fluzone® (inactivated flu shot) manufactured by Aventis Pasteur, Inc. Of these doses, approximately 30 million doses already have been distributed by the manufacturer. In addition, approximately 1.1 million doses of live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV/FluMist ®) manufactured by MedImmune will be available this season.

Because of this urgent situation, CDC, in coordination with its Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP), is issuing interim recommendations for influenza vaccination during the 2004-05 season. These interim recommendations were formally recommended by ACIP on October 5, 2004, and take precedence over earlier recommendations.

Priority Groups for Influenza Vaccination

The following priority groups for vaccination with inactivated influenza vaccine this season are considered to be of equal importance and are:

  • all children aged 6-23 months;
  • adults aged 65 years and older;
  • persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions;
  • all women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
  • children aged 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy;
  • health-care workers involved in direct patient care; and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged <6 months.

Other Vaccination Recommendations

  • Persons in priority groups identified above should be encouraged to search locally for vaccine if their regular health-care provider does not have vaccine available.
  • Intranasally administered, live, attenuated influenza vaccine, if available, should be encouraged for healthy persons who are aged 5-49 years and are not pregnant, including health-care workers (except those who care for severely immunocompromised patients in special care units) and persons caring for children aged <6 months.
  • Certain children aged <9 years require 2 doses of vaccine if they have not previously been vaccinated. All children at high risk for complications from influenza, including those aged 6-23 months, who present for vaccination, should be vaccinated with a first or second dose, depending on vaccination status. However, doses should not be held in reserve to ensure that 2 doses will be available. Instead, available vaccine should be used to vaccinate persons in priority groups on a first-come, first-serve basis.


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