Scheduled flu shot clinics around the McLean area are being canceled due to short supply of the vaccine. Under current local guidelines, only those persons deemed to be in high priority groups are eligible to receive the influenza vaccine.
The McLean Community Center and St. LukeÕs Methodist Church are just two of the local organizations that have had to scuttle plans to distribute the vaccine to the community. According to Sabrina Anwah at the McLean Community Center, the decision is Òdue to the flu shot shortage.Ó
Freddie Mac, one of the largest employers in the region, recently created an in-house health-care clinic for its employees. It was scheduled to dispense flu shots from the new facility until the shortage caused them to call that off. Shawn Flaherty, with Freddie Mac, said, ÒWe are trying to communicate to our employees that there is a serious reduction in the amount of vaccine that is available, and because of the shortage we are not even sure we will get any. We are now encouraging people to use preventative practices, since there will be few shots available.Ó
INOVA health services is the largest provider of the influenza vaccine in the Washington metropolitan area. They have issued a notice stating, ÒDue to the loss of the Chiron influenza vaccine, Inova HealthSource will follow guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provide flu vaccines to high-risk patients only. All previously scheduled workplace and public flu vaccination clinics for the 2004-05 flu season have been canceled.Ó
There are 180 million people considered high risk for influenza complications and eligible to receive the vaccine. However, there are fewer than 54 million doses available, and 30 million of those have already been distributed, according to the CDC.
On Oct. 5, 2004, the CDC was notified by Chiron Corp. that none of its influenza vaccine would be available for the season. Obtainable vaccines are coming from Aventis Pasteur and are deemed safe and approved for use in the United States.
Each year the flu spreads to roughly 20 percent of the population. The CDC states that flu-related complications hospitalize an average of 114,000 people each year and kill around 36,000 people each year.
In lieu of the flu shot, there are several preventive measures people can take to minimize their chances of exposure to or spreading the flu. The CDC recommends washing hands often, using tissues and discarding them immediately, staying home if symptoms emerge, and keeping young children away from large areas like shopping malls.
For more information, see Health section, Page 28.