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Makers Of Flu Vaccine Determined To Avoid Repeat Of 2003 Shortage

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Determined to avoid a repeat of last year's flu-shot shortage, the government said Wednesday that vaccine makers will have 100 million doses ready for this winter.

That figure does not include the estimated 4.5 million doses of flu shots the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

is planning to keep in reserve for children in its first stockpiling of the vaccine.

For the 2003 season, there were 86.9 million doses available, compared with 95 million in 2002.

Last year, the nation's two producers of flu shots shipped their entire supplies of the vaccine by December, thanks to

an early start to the flu season

and fears that a dominant flu strain would cause more severe illness than in recent years.

Clinics around the country ran out of the injected vaccine -- which takes months to prepare -- and officials urged healthy people to opt for a nasal-spray version to save the traditional flu shot for children and the elderly.

Memories of last season's flu shot shortages will compel people to get vaccinated this year, and new flu shot recommendations -- including having children 6 months to 23 months old get the shot -- also will prevent an oversupply, said Gregory Wallace, of the CDC's immunization services division.

All the vaccine must be used by the end of the season -- which typically ends around April -- because the shots cannot be used for other seasons. The flu strains vary each year.

In another change, the CDC has directed states to collect data on any children hospitalized with the flu and to report child flu deaths. Because such data has not been consistently collected, health officials do not know how many children typically die from the flu each year.

In the last flu season, the CDC found 152 children who died from the flu. Their average age was 3, and about 70 percent of them had not received flu shots.

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