Flu vaccine plentiful in Crenshaw County

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

Just because it’s flu season, doesn’t mean you have to accept that sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head and fever feeling.

At least not this year, said Ron Wheeler, Administrator with the Crenshaw County Health Department.

“We’re okay with the vaccine this year,” he said. “Of course, we’re doing the high-risk patients first.”

Vaccines during the last three to five influenza seasons have been woefully inadequate in supply. Because the virus changes each year, vaccines must be updated annually and the complexities of preparing, mass producing and then distributing the vaccine makes for a tight timeline for manufacturers. Additionally, last year Great Britain-based Chiron Corporation had its license pulled after early batches of vaccine were contaminated during the manufacturing process. As such, the US was short 48 million vaccines.

Four manufacturers, including Chiron, whose license has been reinstated, are expected to provide vaccine for the US this year.

“We’re not in the same shape as we were last year,” said Wheeler, who also coordinates health departments in Bullock, Pike and Barbour Counties.

Wheeler said the health department has already started administering flu shots to those deemed priority by the CDC, including persons aged 65 and older, people with chronic health problems, long-term residents of care facilities, children age 6-23 months, pregnant women and health care personnel providing direct patient care.

The vaccine will be administered to the general population starting on Nov. 9.

The CDC, on the advice of health officials and vaccine manufacturers, also established a specific tier date to avoid confusion on when the vaccine would be more widely available.

Demand for the flu vaccine generally falls off in late November. The peak of the flu season in the US can occur anywhere between late December and through March.