Local News

Employers Hope Flu Shot Shortage Will Not Affect Productivity

Posted October 7, 2004 6:51 a.m. EDT

— The flu shot shortage is setting in. With clinics on hold and vaccination programs at work cancelled, people will have to find other ways to beat the bug.

Many companies such as Progress Energy are worried that productivity could slow down due to the flu shot shortage.

The supply of flu vaccines has been cut in half after a British flu shot company, Chiron, had contamination issues. Health officials are asking healthy people to voluntarily forgo a flu shot in order to ensure those with chronic health problems are vaccinated. Some companies have also cancelled flu shot clinics.

"Obviously as a company, we were disappointed and shocked, like a lot of companies, that we were going to be unable to offer free vaccinations for our workforce," said Keith Poston, of Progress Energy. "Last year, more than 7,000 employees and spouses took advantage of the program,and we think that has been something that has been helpful both in preventing the flu and helping with productivity."

Dr. Tony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, spoke at Duke University Thursday. He said the government is working on the flu vaccine shortage.

"We are working closely with some of the companies to try to squeeze out maybe an extra million doses," he said. "I know we are not going to make up the 46 to 48 million that was lost."

Fauci said there is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to create vaccines. He said one way to entice the companies would be tax incentives.

The flu shot shortage is hitting Edgecombe County hard. The Edgecombe County Health Department ordered most of its vaccine from Chiron. Health officials learned they will not get more than 3,000 doses.

The county has a small supply of the vaccine they plan to use for elderly people in poor health. County health officials are scrambling to find a new supplier.

Health departments all over the state are having trouble coping. In Orange County, high-risk patients who already schduled an appointment to get a flu shot will get the vaccine as long as supplies last. Since the county does not expect to get any more shots, there is no waiting list.