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Summit short on flu vaccine

JASON STARR
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Summit County Director of Public Health Deb Crook holds up a vaccine to ward off measels, mumps and rubella and has several other vaccines, like polio and chicken pox, but said the county nursing has yet to receive flu vaccines. She said there is a nationwide shortage of flu vaccines this year and the CDC has issued a healthy advisory.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Plans for doling out flu vaccinations in Summit County screeched to a halt this week because of a major interruption in the vaccine supply. This left some clinics in Summit County with no flu vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control suggesting suppliers ration away from healthy adults.On Tuesday, British authorities shut down one of America’s leading suppliers of the vaccine, Chiron Corp., citing manufacturing problems at the company’s factory in England., leaving America with about half its normal doses of the vaccine.High Country Health Care and the Breckenridge Medical Center, which are used to providing hundreds of locals with flu vaccines at this time of year, were depending on Chiron for all of their supply. Both have been left empty-handed. “It’s going to affect us a lot,” said High Country Health Care nurse Linda Williams. “All of our regularly scheduled flu clinics have been canceled.”The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is working with the country’s other main supplier of the vaccine, Aventis Pasteur Inc., to try to cover the shortage.Both High Country Health Care and the Breckenridge Medical Center have signed on to a waiting list to get vaccines from Aventis. The Breckenridge Medical Center, which was expecting 750 adult doses from Chiron, is hoping to get 500 adult doses and 40 children doses from Aventis.

“I don’t know how that stands right now,” said Breckenridge Medical Center clinic coordinator Karie McDonald. “We may get none of it, we may get a portion of it, we may get all of it.”High Country, which was originally expecting 3,500 doses from Chiron, has ordered a nasal spray flu vaccine, good for people ages 5-49.The CDC is urging clinics to ration the supplies they either have or the ones they may eventually receive. It released a list of priority groups as a guideline for health-care providers on Tuesday.Priority groups include children ages 6-23 months, adults 65 years and older, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, health-care workers involved in direct patient care and people with chronic medical conditions.Summit County providers are taking the guidelines to heart, which means many healthy adults seeking vaccination will likely be turned away.”I think there will be enough for the high-risk people,” said Wes Hunter, a pharmacist at Summit Medical Center in Frisco. “The rest of the people probably are going to have to take their chances.”The Summit Medical Center is the only major flu vaccine provider in Summit County with any flu vaccinations. Hunter said the center learned in year’s past not to put all their eggs in one basket. The half of its supply it ordered from Aventis is in house and ready for use.

However, the center has promised to vaccinate local firefighters and members of its own staff who work with patients first. After that, high-risk patients are next on the priority list.According to Michelle Wilson, community nursing supervisor for Summit County Public Health, the City Market pharmacy in Dillon and the clinic of Christine Ebert-Santos also has limited supplies of the vaccine, as does Dr. James Bachman of Frisco. City Market has committed to following the CDC guidelines, and Bachman and Ebert-Santos will limit vaccine use to their patients only. Bachman has accepted walk-up patients for vaccination in the past but decided against that this year after hearing about the supply problems.Summit County Public Health is working to get local clinics and medical centers to collaborate to ensure that all high-risk patients seeking a vaccine are taken care of. “If you are a healthy adult, we’re asking you to wait,” Wilson said.After fielding several calls, some panicky, from Summit County residents on Wednesday, Wilson was working to set up a flu hotline to help answer questions locals may have about the availability of vaccines. She did not have the number set up as of Wednesday night.With the vaccination supply not likely to be fully restored, local health officials are expecting an increase in flu cases this winter.

But Miller points out that healthy adults weren’t always considered for flu vaccinations.”Fifteen years ago we used to only vaccinate people 65 and older,” she said. “Then it went to children, then, in the last five years, it’s gone to anyone who doesn’t want to get the flu.”Naturopathic doctor Justin Pollack, who practices in Frisco, believes there are benefits to an otherwise healthy adult getting the flu.”We consider flu symptoms somewhat of a workout for the immune system,” Pollack said. “We actually encourage fevers to a certain extent.”He recommends a number of natural preventative measures to keep a person healthy through the winter season. With fewer adults able to get vaccinated this year, Pollack hopes some may consider naturopathic philosophies.”(The vaccine shortage) may enlighten some people to different, more natural, ways to improve their immune system,” he said.Jason Starr can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at jstarr@summitdaily.com.


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