Archive for Thursday, October 21, 2004

County health department exhausts supply of flu vaccine

October 21, 2004

As federal health officials worked to allay fears about the shortage of influenza vaccine, the Leavenworth County Health Department reported it has depleted its supply of flu shots.

"It was a rough week," said Sylvia Burns, county health director.

Nurses administered more than 400 doses at a clinic on Thursday.

"From 8:30 that morning, they lined up for a clinic at 1 o'clock," Burns said.

People stood in line, oftentimes letting members of priority groups move to the front. Priority groups to receive flu shots this year include the very old, the very young and people with chronic health problems.

Two weeks ago, federal health officials announced that the nation's flu vaccine supply this winter would be about half that of previous years. Now, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is asking members of the public to "just be calm" as the government reallocates the limited number of vaccines.

"I would like to tell individuals just be calm and don't stand in line, because we have approximately 24 million doses of vaccine that have not been shipped yet," Thompson said Sunday in published reports. "We're reallocating those vaccines and shipments to regions that have a shortage, and we want to make sure first off that our elderly citizens, those age 65 and older, get the vaccine first because that is where the biggest number of vulnerabilities really are."

Burns is hopeful the county's health department will receive additional doses.

"We have on order another shipment," she said.

For now, all of the health department's flu clinics have been put on hold, and Burns said she would like to schedule one in the southern portion of the county.

Last year, the health department administered about 1,200 vaccines.

"And that's why this year I had tried to go for 1,500 doses," Burns said.

So far this year, the department has received about 700 doses. In addition to last week's clinic, Burns said the health department provided vaccines to assisted living centers and nursing homes, along with county employees.

She understands that many county residents, particularly elderly residents, are concerned.

"People are frightened as to what could happen if they should get the flu," she said. "If you are sick, stay home. Don't come to work or go out and about. Follow good hand-washing techniques. There are a lot things that you can follow."

Tonganoxie's Dr. Bill Weatherford agreed.

"I think people are scared," he said. "I think it has to do with reporting on the TV. Most of the time, people have not even thought about getting their flu shots at this time of year."

Weatherford, who's received a limited number of flu vaccines from Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said his office is out.

"We totalled, maybe, 100 all together," Weatherford said.

Tonganoxie's other physicians -- Philip Stevens and Deborah Gammill -- received no flu vaccines this year.

Weatherford, though, agrees with federal officials in advising people exercise patience as the officials work to reallocate the vaccines.

"If you think about it, they have 54 million, and that's enough for one in six people, which is enough for the high-risk people."

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