County braces for shortage of flu vaccine |

County braces for shortage of flu vaccine

Nevada County health officials will be looking for flu vaccine today from the private sector so that enough will be available for children and seniors when flu season starts next month.

The search started after a Tuesday announcement that the United States would not get half of its flu vaccine this year after the supplier Chiron Corp. was shut down by the British government. Chiron was going to produce all the flu vaccine for California’s state and county immunizations programs, but now the state will not be getting its shipment.

Cheryl Montague, director of nursing at the Nevada County Community Health Department, said she is unsure how the county will replace the 2,750 doses that were to be given at a number of clinics in November and December. Those clinics have been called off until officials can find another flu vaccine supply.

“We’ll work quickly and closely with the private sector to find out who has Aventis vaccine,” Montague said late Tuesday. Aventis Pasteur is the other maker of flu vaccine for the U.S.

The county will also start a flu prevention campaign, Montague said. That means people should cover their mouths when coughing, wash their hands frequently and avoid crowds and work if the have flu-like symptoms.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently working with Aventis to change its distribution schedule so that shipments go to the parts of the country where the most at-risk people live. Montague said California’s Department of Health Services is looking into that possibility for Nevada County.

Those people considered at the highest risk are children up to 23 months old, people 65 or older, anyone with heart or lung disease, pregnant women, nursing home residents, children on aspirin therapy, and workers in the health care and day care industries.

The British government shut down the Chiron Corp. for committing manufacturing errors while making the vaccine. About four million doses were found to be contaminated in August, starting Chiron’s problems.

Chiron was expected to ship 46 to 48 million doses of flu vaccine to the United States to complement the 54 million doses that are now being shipped here by Aventis. Federal officials Tuesday asked healthy adults to skip their flu shots this year so that children and the elderly who are more at risk can get them.

A new batch of flu vaccine is not possible right away because it takes months to make, using chicken eggs. Other vaccine shortages and delays in recent years had officials urging overhaul of the U.S. flu vaccine system.

“This points up the vulnerability of our influenza vaccine supply,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, a government vaccine adviser.

Montague said problems with flu vaccine are becoming a yearly occurrence, with wrong amounts sent or delays in recent seasons.

On average, the flu kills 36,000 Americans yearly and puts another 114,000 in the hospital, most of them elderly.

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