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Where are the shots?

Supply cut off due to health violation. More than 100 South Whidbey residents witnessed the effects of the flu vaccine shortage first hand when they tried to get vaccines last Friday and were turned away.

The Portland, Ore., company, getaflushot.com, offered a flu vaccination clinic at Casey’s Red Apple Market in Bayview last Friday. Sue Smith, a nurse with getaflushot.com, said 110 people received inoculations, but more than 150 people were turned away. The demand was so high that, according to Ken Frandsen of Freeland, about 50 people lined up out the door at around noon last Friday. Frandsen was having lunch at the nearby Neil’s Clover Patch restaurant at the time.

The flu shot clinic was scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but getaflushot.com was out of vaccine by 1 p.m. Smith said priority was given to those on Medicare.

A nationwide shortage of flu vaccine also forced getaflushot.com to cancel a planned clinic at Ken’s Corner Red Apple market on Friday.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the high demand for flu vaccine comes on the heels of an Oct. 5 notification to the CDC from the Chiron Corporation — which manufactures the vaccine in England — that none of its Fluvrin flu vaccine could be released for use. Chiron is a U.S. company.

The announcement immediately cut off planed vaccine shipments to Island County Health Department, stopping the agency’s supply of flu vaccine a month before the main flu season starts.

Island County Health has ordered 2,000 more doses of adult vaccines from Aventis-Pasteur, the other main manufacturers of flu vaccines in America, said health department director Tim McDonald. But the county health is on a waiting list.

In the meantime, McDonald said he hopes his department will receive the vaccine at some point, but he said the chances of getting it in time for flu season are low.

“We may not get the adult vaccine at all,” he said this week.

When it does arrive, immunization priority will be given to people 65 years old and older, adults with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The shortage leaves some Island County residents, such as Ken Frandsen. At 83 years of age, he said recent surgery and age have he and his wife, Josephine, concerned about their heath. Josephine Frandsen, who is 80, called both the health department and Whidbey General Hospital trying to arrange for flu shots, but received the same answer from both.

“Neither one of them knew where to get a flu shot,” Ken Frandsen said. “Which is amazing since it’s such a problem.”

Because Whidbey General Hospital purchased its flu vaccine through Aventis

Pasteur, it has sufficient doses for the care it provides. Workers involved directly with patient care and hospital patients will be able to be vaccinated, said Trish Rose, the hospital’s spokesperson.

If any additional doses are left over in by mid-November, the hospital will provide them to the County Health Department for distribution, Rose said.

An Island County health press release states that the health department is awaiting word from the state Department of Health for directions about finding a supply of adult vaccinations for elderly and high risk adults.

The department does have vaccinations for infants and children at high-risk. People are advised to contact their physician for information about flu shots for children or infants.

The CDC states that Chiron Corporation’s vaccine was cut off by the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for three months. McDonald said it was prompted when bacteria was found in the vaccine.

The decision cuts in half the approximately 100 million doses that were expected to be administered in the U.S. this year. It’s left many health providers in Island County and elsewhere in the United States without vaccinations for adults.

McDonald said Island County Health used Chiron because it sold its vaccinations for $65 a vial, $20 cheaper than the $85 doses from Aventis-Pasteur. A vial provides 10 vaccinations. He said ordering 2,000 doses from the more expensive manufacturer will cost an additional $4,000.

Community Events, April 2014

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