Feds Give Flu Shots to States

November 9, 2004 -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just announced its plan for when and how the remaining doses of the 2004-05 flu vaccine will be distributed. This action was necessitated by the critical shortage of flu vaccine that hit the US this year. The shortfall occurred after one of two flu vaccine suppliers (Chiron Corp.) was shut down in October for reasons of contamination.

This year, a second vaccine manufacturer (Aventis Pasteur) had committed a total of 58 million vaccine doses for the US. This number includes the 33 million doses already shipped prior to the Chiron shutdown and the 14 million additional doses which were subsequently shipped.

Doing some simple arithmetic means that the flu vaccine distribution plan just announced by CDC will apply to the 10.3 million doses which are left. It is the CDC's intention to turn over this remaining vaccine to the state health departments which will then decide how they are going to distribute the vaccine within their own states.

Comment: A Nebraska health official was quoted as saying, "While all of the nation's vaccine needs will not be met, this system is fair and will assure that remaining doses of vaccine get to those most in need."

Perhaps "maximize the chances" would be a better choice of words than "assure." But we can always hope that the federal-state health "system" in the US will get the vaccine to everyone at highest risk from the flu.

Our other concern is that the CDC plan calls for distributing the remaining flu vaccine "over several weeks through December and into January." For many people, especially if the flu strikes over the holidays, this timeframe may be too little and too late.

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