Friday, November 18, 2005

Go to bed, take two aspirins and pray, cause there isn't any flu vaccine

When Johns Hopkins can’t get flu vaccine you know we’re in trouble—There is a major shortage of flu vaccine and no one is reporting it. I’m not talking about the bird flu, which may or may not ever get here. I’m talking about the normal flu shot, the one most of us get around this time of the year to lower the chances of getting the flu this winter. There ain’t none around.

Even Johns Hopkins Medicine, which ought to have enough clout to get anything it wants, can only get enough to vaccinate clinical staff. Scheduled vaccination sessions for regular employees and families were cancelled and my doctor at Hopkins said he was told they would not be getting any for patients.

Maxim Health Systems, one of the largest, cancelled its clinics because it too can’t find vaccine. Kaiser Permanente, even larger, also cancelled its shots, hoping to save some for those most vulnerable, which should include the very mature, like me. Same reason.

Why is there a shortage? Larry Altman in the Times said there are production and distribution problems and that even the mother of Julie Gerbinding, director of the Centers for Disease Control can’t get any. There is less vaccine out now than there was last year, where there was a well-publicized shortage. Click the headline for the story. Some 71.5 million doses have been distributed, Altman wrote. Maybe so, but where are they? Part of the problem may be that the publicity about bird flu stirred up enough people to send them to a needle and that emptied the supply. There is no clue when the supply will meet demand.

According to Google, Altman’s story in the Times is the only one reporting a shortage this year. I have no idea why.

The only good news is that the flu season is off to a slow start this year so it is possible there will be enough vaccine by the time the bug starts really circulating.

[Photo: Baltimore Sun]

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