Nationwide Shortage of Seasonal Flu Vaccine Result of Earlier, Heavier Demand than Projected
Kentucky Department for Public Health officials announced today that most of the seasonal influenza vaccine manufactured for this season has already been given, due to earlier, increased demand nationwide. Individuals in recommended groups for seasonal flu vaccine—including those over 65, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions—should check with health care providers in their area to see if seasonal flu vaccine is still available.
"In many cases seasonal flu vaccine was given as soon as the vaccine arrived, in the months of September and October," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. "While vaccine manufacturers produced more seasonal flu vaccine than last year, we have learned that it will ultimately not be enough to meet the increased demand, though some limited quantities should still become available. At this point we are still not seeing seasonal flu circulating, but we do encourage those at highest risk for complications from seasonal flu to check for vaccine availability with health care providers."
The increased demand for the seasonal flu shot is thought to be tied to heightened awareness of flu activity due to the emergence earlier this year of the new 2009 H1N1 flu strain (swine flu), which the seasonal vaccine does not protect against. Seasonal flu vaccine is highly recommended for: children age 6 months to 19 years old; pregnant women; people 50 years old or older; people of any age with chronic health problems; people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; health care workers; caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children less than 6 months old. While seasonal flu is not yet circulating in Kentucky, the virus is expected to make an appearance later this fall or winter.
The vaccine against 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) is also in limited supply, but unlike seasonal flu vaccine, more is being produced and gradually increasing amounts are expected over the coming weeks and months. Individuals should check with their local health departments or other health care providers to see if they are in a target group for the swine flu vaccine and should receive it as soon as it is available in their community. Target groups for this vaccine differ somewhat from those targeted for the seasonal flu shot.
Individuals may also want to talk to their health care provider about whether they should receive the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine protects against pneumococcal pneumonia, a relatively common complication of the flu, and is widely available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now recommends this vaccine for all people 65 years and older and for persons 2 to 64 years of age with certain high-risk conditions. A single revaccination at least five years after initial vaccination is recommended for people 65 years and older who were first vaccinated before age 65 years, as well as for people at highest risk, such as those who have no spleen, and those who have HIV infection, AIDS or malignancy.
Visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov for information on seasonal flu, swine flu and flu vaccine in Kentucky, or follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter. Kentucky's toll-free influenza hotline number is 1(877)843-7727, and operates from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily EST.