SIKESTON - Delivery of this year's flu vaccine isn't expected to be as late as last year, but officials say some delays can be expected due to fewer manufacturers and delivery lapses.
Public-health doctors are urging that the vaccine be used first for elderly people and individuals with health problems that make them more susceptible to serious flu complications.
The Scott and Mississippi County Health Departments have already received an early shipment and have scheduled various vaccination clinics for these high risk individuals.
Individuals who should get a flu vaccination as soon as possible are those who are age 65 years or older, will be at least three months pregnant during the flu season (November through April), children or adults with a health problem such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, asthma or other lung disease and those who suffer a long-term illness that prevents the body from fighting infections such as cancer or HIV/AIDS.
Because of some delays in shipment of vaccine, the Missouri Department of Health urges individuals in good health who are less than 65 years of age to wait until at least November to get their flu shots.
"We think this year will be better as far as giving the flu vaccinations," said Karen Evans, registered nurse at the Scott County Health Department. "The Centers for Disease Control guidelines are for high risk patients first so if everyone else will wait for later scheduled dates, things will go well."
Individuals usually develop immunity to the disease about two weeks after receiving the immunization. Influenza season usually doesn't peak until well into December in Missouri, so individuals will still be protected from the flu. Those who have not had received the vaccine until December or January should still get it.
Manufacturing problems caused national shortages last fall. Many employers and health agencies canceled their annual mass vaccinations, including the Mississippi County Health Department, which reported having to turn people away until the vaccine became available. Some nursing-home residents didn't get the shots until December, even though they are among the most likely to die from the flu.
"There were difficulties with growing and processing the influenza A vaccine strain and one of the three manufacturers discontinued producing the vaccine," noted Melanie Glaus, administrator at the Mississippi County Health Department.
"We only had 500 doses of the 2,500 we ordered and we had a lot of high-risk people who needed the vaccine but couldn't get it. Once our vaccine arrived in late December and January, people were already vaccinated and the health department was stuck with hundreds of doses of flu vaccine."
This year, however, more vaccine is expected to be available than in previous years. Manufacturers are expecting 60 percent of the vaccine to be delivered by the end of October, 30 percent by the end of November and the final 10 percent in early December. However, officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress these projections from manufacturers could change as the season progresses.
"We already have received our vaccine for this year, we've ordered 2,000 doses." said Glaus. "We paid three times the price from last year, but because it is such a good service for the people of Mississippi County, the board of directors has decided to continue to offer flu vaccines free to county residents."
The CDC predicts 79 million doses of the vaccine will be delivered this fall and winter. In normal years, most of the serum is delivered by the end of October. Only 48 million of the doses are expected by then this year.
Reportedly, an increasing amount of people are getting a flu shot over the past few years. "I think the public feels more comfortable with the vaccine now, they know it's not going to make them sick," Evans said.