Indiana Daily Student

Local flu shots running low

Officials: Delay caused by errors in manufacturing

Though the flu season is already here, some Bloomington residents are not able to receive flu vaccinations. But the problem is not specific to Bloomington, as other Indiana residents are experiencing the same problem.\nThe Indiana State Department of Health acknowledges many Indiana residents are having difficulty obtaining flu shots. It claims this delay is related to manufacturing and distribution problems, and is not evidence of a flu vaccine shortage.\nAndy Zirkle, spokesman for the Indiana State Department of Health, said the delay in distribution might have occurred because the demand for vaccinations is higher this year. He said the misconseption that seasonal flu vaccines will protect people from avian influenza, also known as the bird flu, is causing more people to want the vaccination. \n"There is not a vaccination for the avian flu now," Zirkle said. "However, the media coverage of a possible flu pandemic has reminded people that they should be vaccinated, even if it doesn't protect you from the avian flu."\nZirkle said this year's flu vaccine rush could also be attributed to people's fear of another shortage like last year's, which occured when Chiron, one of the largest suppliers of influenza vaccines, was shut down because of quality issues. \nBut Dave Burnworth, the senior director of clinical operation for Internal Medicine Associates, said he thinks there actually is a shortage. He said IMA, a system of medical offices in Bloomington that sees more than 1,000 patients a day, has only received 3,000 of the 11,000 vaccines it requested. \n"Something is wrong," he said. "We are not getting the vaccines we requested."\nBurnworth said the problem is a national problem.\nHe said the Center for Disease Control prioritized who received flu vaccines earlier this year. On Oct. 24, it lifted the priority system, which made flu shots available to pediatric clinics, nursing homes, home health agencies and hospitals first.\n"If they're prioritizing who gets the shot, that is a pretty good indication that they anticipated a problem," Burnworth said.\nThe Indiana State Department of Health suggested that people who wish to receive a flu shot contact their local health department so they can know when more vaccines will arrive and where to receive them. More vaccines are expected to arrive throughout December, the department said. \nAnother option for people wishing to receive a vaccine is FluMist, which is similar to the shot and is approved for healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49, but is more expensive.\nThe IU Health Center received all of the 4,000 vaccines it requested, but it has distributed almost all of them. It has enough vaccines to treat students, but has stopped offering the vaccine to faculty and staff, said Nursing Director Nancy Macklin. \nThe shots are only offered to students who are at high risk for the virus. Other students are offered FluMist. \n"The FluMist has a weakened live virus," Macklin said. "High-risk patients cannot take the weakened live virus."\nThe peak period of the flu season is typically from late January to early February.\n"A person can be vaccinated in late December or January and still be protected against the flu," Zirkle said. "It takes about two weeks for full protection from the virus to kick in."\nZirkle emphasized the importance of being vaccinated, noting that about 2,000 deaths occur every year because of complications from the flu.

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