County calls off flu shot clinics

Published 4:13 am Friday, October 8, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Amid national concerns of a flu vaccine shortage, most residents in Berrien County will have to go without a flu shot this year.
After British regulators shut down a major flu vaccine producer, Chiron Corp., United States health officials are urging healthy adults and school children to not get flu shots this year.
With 46 million doses of the vaccine - approximately 50 percent of the US supply - unavailable, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has released new guidelines for distribution of the vaccine.
The guidelines identify high-risk groups such as children six to 23 months old, people 65 years and older, people with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, and health workers who work directly with at-risk patients, as those who should get top priority for receiving flu shots.
The Berrien County Health Department has put all flu vaccination clinics on hold due to the shortage.
The health department ordered 6,500, or 75 percent, of its doses from the shutdown Chiron Corp. The department did order approximately 2,100 doses order from another major vaccine producer, Aventis Pasteur Inc., said Carol Klukas, the Berrien County Health Department Community Preventative Health Services manager.
Lakeland Regional Health System is working with the Berrien County Health Department to ensure as many people as possible within the high-risk groups get the vaccine.
Lakeland gave most of its 15,000 doses to the health department, reserving a small amount for patients in the high-risk groups and health-workers in direct contact with patients, said Danielle Trapp, public relations specialist for Lakeland Regional Health System.
Berrien County Health Department Epidemiologist Laura Miles said even with the vaccine from Lakeland, there isn't enough flu shots for everyone in the high risk groups.
Based on 2000 census data and birth rates from previous years, there are approximately 6,000 children in Berrien County under the age of two years old.
That number alone accounts for almost a third of the available doses between Lakeland and the health department.
According to Miles, there are approximately 22,000 individuals over the age of 65-years-old. Miles also added that only 65 workers in the health department will be receiving the vaccine.
Miles said that the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control help to prioritize those patients in need of the vaccinations, but they rank the high risk categories against each other.
Miles said that the department has recently had to turn away healthy adults because of the guidelines. She said that the shortage will also hurt the departments goal of everyone getting vaccinations every year.