Centers for Disease Control is recommending that most adults – and many
children – skip getting a flu shot this year so those in higher risk groups
will be more likely to have access to the vaccine.
Health officials announced earlier this
week that the United States is facing a certain shortage of flu vaccine after
Britain temporarily suspended a company’s license to produce the vaccine. The
company, Chiron, was to make 46 million to 48 million of the 100 million doses
of the vaccine U.S. that officials expected to have available.
a notice on the Centers for Disease Control Web site, officials noted those
groups who should be first in line to get the available vaccine. They include:
- All children
ages 6 months to 23 months;
- Adults age 65
years and older;
- People with
chronic medical conditions;
- Residents of
nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
- People who
have children who are less than 6 months old.
others are being encouraged by the CDC to forego getting a shot to make more
vaccine available for the higher risk groups.
truckers do not fall into one of the groups still recommended to get flu shots,
so they should take extra precautions to avoid contracting the illness. And health experts
say they face a particular challenge when trying to avoid the flu.
“Because they go into so many places –
not just truck stops, you’re talking about into shippers and into receivers –
they’re around a lot of people,” said nurse Sharon Mitchell. “They touch
doorknobs, they use telephones – which are some of the biggest offenders (in
the spread of viruses).”
Mitchell is a nurse and vice president of
American Business Medical Services, a clinic inside Jessup TA Truck Stop near
Baltimore. But many more truckers know her as Nurse Red, her screen name on the
Prevention is the key to fighting
truckers’ heightened risk. Mitchell said truck drivers should use common sense
precautions, such as avoiding people with obvious flu symptoms, and washing
their hands frequently with anti-bacterial soaps or gels. She also recommended
against using public phones, or sharing cell phones.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are checking to
see whether companies such as Aventis, another maker of flu shots, can make
more vaccine for this year this late in the process.
Chiron did not say why its license was
revoked, and U.S. officials indicated they were seeking more detailed
information. Meanwhile, the company did hint at reasons in a statement.
According to a company news release, the
British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency “asserted that
Chiron’s manufacturing process does not comply with UK Good Manufacturing
“Our manufacturing and quality staff have
worked hard to resolve what we viewed as a problem limited in scope to a few
batches, and we believe our quality assurance confirmatory testing demonstrates
that the Fluvirin doses we anticipate releasing are safe,” John Lamber,
president of Chiron Vaccines, said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, the U.S. had planned to have 100 million doses of
the flu vaccine available, with Chiron producing almost half of it. The agency
anticipates that 56 million doses made by two other companies will still be
Last year, 87 million people in the
United States received flu shots.
“Our immediate focus will be on making
sure that the supply we do have reaches those who are most vulnerable,” Health
and Human Services officials said in a news release.
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor