Local News

State Health Officials Ask Providers To Limit Flu Shots

Posted October 7, 2004

— State health officials are urging healthy adults to skip getting flu shots this year due to a shortage.

Wake County announced on Wednesday that it is

temporarily suspending its flu shot clinics

.

The suspension for all Wake County Human Services flu clinics includes the clinic on Sunnybrook Drive, the Friday clinic at Eastern Regional Center in Zebulon and the Tuesday clinic at Southern Regional Center in Fuquay-Varina.

"We will continue to assess the situation and as soon as more vaccine becomes available, we will notify the public," said Gibbie Harris, Wake County community health director.

State health officials are asking providers to follow guidelines set by the the

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

.

On Tuesday, the CDC recommended that only the following people get the flu vaccine:

  • All children aged 6-23 months
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions
  • All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Children aged 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy
  • Health-care workers involved in direct patient care
  • Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged less than 6 months.
  • Healthy people between 2 and 65 years of age should forego the shots for now.

    Citizens with questions about the flu vaccine can call the CareLine at (800) 662-7030.

    Many people were willing to wait more than a hour at a Raleigh drug store to receive a free flu shot through a Blue Cross Blue Shield program. Those shots were only given to those with chronic health problems.

    "Since I'm in the high-risk group, I wanted to make sure I got a flu shot as soon as possible," flu shot recipient Tomeka Thomas said.

    Tiffany Harwood brought her family of five to get a flu shot. Four of them were turned away. Only her 17-month-old could get the vaccine.

    "My 4-year-old son is not eligible for a shot. I'm petrified," she said.

    Loraine Gerritz, Harwood's mother, said she is worried that she could spread the illness when she visits her elderly mother.

    "My fear now is I could have the flu in the beginning stages, not know it and take it into the nursing home and be responsible for some deaths of these elderly people," she said.

    State health officials acknowledge a vaccine shortage could mean more flu cases this season. They will work to get vaccines where they are needed most.

    "We will create a state pool of vaccine we can shift across the state, making it available to high-risk people in other parts of the state," State Health Director Leah Devlin said.

    "There will probably be more people with the flu, more people out of work, more people out of school because of this," Harris said.

    On Tuesday, British regulators abruptly shut down Chiron, a major flu-shot supplier, cutting in half the U.S. supply of vaccine just as flu season is about to begin.

    The Bush administration urged the public and doctors to begin voluntary rationing of the roughly 54 million flu shots that will be available this year.

    Mary Sue Horton said she was worried she could not get a shot. She considers herself lucky.

    "I have had pneumonia and the flu. I was real excited because I wanted to make sure I got the shot and was safe," she said.

    Harwood said she is determined to protect her family somehow.

    "If I can find a shot that I can buy and it's available, I'll pay for one at this point. I'm just not going to accept No for an answer right now," she said.

    Along with the free shot limitations,

    Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina

    announced it is cancelling workplace clinics, except for places like nursing homes where the flu can spread quickly.

    North Carolina has received almost half the nearly 340,000 flu vaccine doses from the one remaining worldwide supplier.

    Devlin said that's approaching the total number of doses the state provided last year, nearly 170,000.

    Even though the state wants all doctors to follow the new guidelines, it is not mandatory. Officials suggest checking with your physician to see if you can get a shot.

    and

    Kamal Wallace

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