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Chill, CDC officials say -- there's enough flu vaccine



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Centers for Disease Control urges doctors to begin giving shots.

SCRIPPS HOWARD

When it comes to the flu and getting the vaccines to battle it, health officials urge consumers and doctors to chill.

There is plenty of the vaccine -- more than ever before -- but too many doctors are waiting until they get their full supply before giving shots, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

That leaves some people who are at risk for the flu with the mistaken impression that there is a shortage, said Dr. Jeanne Santoli of the CDC in Atlanta.

Santoli urged doctors to go ahead and start giving the shots, saying there will be plenty more vaccine coming by the end of the month.

When to get it

And she reminded people that if they don't get their flu shot this month, November is soon enough. In fact, getting the shot in December or January will still protect a person from the likely high point of the flu season, she said.

Already, 40 million doses have been distributed, Santoli said. By the end of the month, 75 million will have been distributed on the way to a record of 115 million by year's end. The previous record was 83 million.

Joni Reynolds, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's immunization program, said that despite some concerns, the doses are being distributed fairly to all groups, from big chains such as Safeway and Walgreens, to smaller drugstores, to private physicians and public-health clinics.

Santoli concurred, saying everyone should have a roughly equal portion of their order at any given date.

Given the manufacturing process -- the weakened virus is grown in chicken eggs -- it's impossible to make the entire nation's supply before the onset of flu season, she said.

So, providers have to take it on faith that the vaccines will keep arriving in the weeks to come.

So far, the news from manufacturers has been mostly good, although there has been a delay -- until November or December -- in some doses of FluZone, the shot suitable for kids ages 6 months to 3 years.

Some 36,000 Americans -- most of them elderly or with weakened immune systems -- die of the flu each year.

In addition, hundreds of thousands who contract the flu feel miserable for two weeks, with muscle aches, extreme fatigue and little desire to get out of bed for days at a time.




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