The shortage is the result of tainted vaccines discovered at Chiron Corp., a British company that supplies roughly half the country's flu shots. Shipments of Chiron vaccines have been halted, leaving Aventis Pasteur as the only major supplier of vaccines.
Trent said that his agency, along with several other health departments around the state, had contracted to receive their vaccines from Chiron. The flu shots available for the federal Vaccinations For Children program come from a separate stockpile, he said.
The VFC vaccines are available if a child meets one of the following criteria: is enrolled in Medicaid; does not have health insurance or whose insurance does not pay for vaccinations; or is an American Indian or native of Alaska.
Ephraim McDowell should have enough vaccines
Mary Begley, spokeswoman for Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, said today that the health care network should have enough vaccines on hand this year. "We were fortunate that we received our supply of flu vaccine early this year," Begley said. "While we believe we have an adequate supply to meet our needs, we are exercising caution in distributing the vaccine because of the announced shortage."
EMRMC will have flu shots available at its six medical clinics in Boyle, Mercer, Lincoln, Garrard, Casey and Washington counties. It will also have vaccines for hospitalized patients who might need them and for its own employees.
Begley said the Ephraim McDowell network is following CDC guidelines and urging healthy people to skip the shots this year to keep more available for those who really need them.
"We're always concerned about flu season," she said. "The numbers that die each year from flu complications are staggering, but the majority of those who die are in the high risk categories. If we had an adequate supply of vaccines, we'd encourage everyone to take one, but since there is a scarcity this year, we are only encouraging those in the high risk categories to take it."
Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said today that state officials are trying to get a handle on how many vaccines are available, and which health departments and private physicians have received them.
"Those in the high risk groups will have to seek out those providers who have the vaccines. That might mean checking with two or three different health departments and doctor's offices to see who has it available," Bond said.
All of the vaccines formulated for children are made by Aventis Pasteur, Bond said, so pediatricians who ordered flu shots should have them available.