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

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CDC and States Announce Plan to Distribute 10.3 Million Flu Shots Nationwide; Public Health Officials Call Allocation Fair and Aimed at Most Vulnerable Americans

Working closely with public health officials nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced plans to distribute the remaining 10.3 million doses of Aventis Pasteur influenza vaccine to state health departments, which will then help ensure the doses reach those people at highest risk for complications from influenza. The vaccine will be distributed over several weeks through December and into January.

"The work by our colleagues in state and local health departments across the country that has gone into developing this plan has been absolutely extraordinary," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "We're doing everything possible to ensure that vaccine is distributed in a fair way and that it goes to those who need it most."

Under the plan outlined today, states and territories will be receiving 100 percent of any orders they had originally placed under federal, state, and multi-state contracts. Overall, this accounts for 3.1 million doses of vaccine. The distribution plan for the 7.2 million doses takes into account three things: 1) the number of high-priority individuals in the state, 2) the number of doses the state has already received and 3) the state's unmet needs. In the coming weeks, another 1.2 million doses of pediatric will be allocated to states using the same approach.

"The allocation plan announced today, designed to get vaccine to those individuals in greatest need of protection, demonstrates once again the critical role the federal, state, and local governmental public health system, working with the nation's health care providers, can play in protecting the public," said Richard A. Raymond, MD, president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and Chief Medical Officer, Nebraska Health and Human Services System. "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."