Flu Vaccine Shortage, Delay Expected





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Berkeley residents may have to wait a few extra weeks for that flu shot they have been looking forward to, due to problems manufacturing this year's influenza vaccine, according to a recent city report.

The Food and Drug Administration and the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a special report announcing that vaccine shipments may be delayed and there may even be vaccine shortages this flu season.

The culprit of the delay is an especially slow-growing strain of the influenza virus needed to manufacture the vaccine.

The four companies that develop the vaccine supply the entire country, said Pam Cameron, assistant director of clinical services at the Tang Center.

"Everybody is going to experience the delay," she said.

As for shortfalls, Cameron said the Tang Center, which provides health care to UC Berkeley students, is receiving 15 percent less vaccine than it ordered and at a later date than expected.

The immunization branch of the state Department of Public Health expects the distribution delay to be thirty days, said city spokesperson Stephanie Lopez. This will ultimately postpone flu shot clinics until late October or early November. Usually flu clinics are held during late September or early October.

The North Berkeley Senior Center will not be having its annual flu clinic until November 6, more than a month later than previous years. The Tang Center has yet to announce when it will be having its annual flu clinic.

"My hope is that we will be able to have our first clinic in the third week of October," said Cameron.

She said the clinic has delayed publicly announcing its clinic dates because of the uncertainty of the vaccine arrival date.

The national disease control center recommends that students, particularly those living in dormitories, get vaccinated against influenza because the symptoms can obviously interfere with schoolwork. The unpleasant effects of influenza typically include sore throat, body aches, nausea and fever, and can last up to two weeks.

But for high-risk patients, influenza can have fatal complications, according to the center's Web site. Some people in this category develop serious complications such as pneumonia, which is why hospitals and health care providers are strongly encouraged to vaccinate high-risk patients first.

Senior citizens are in the high-risk category, along with people who have chronic health problems and disabilities, according to the center. Healthcare workers and people who live among high-risk patients also fall into this category.

This year the center posted on its Web site that people aged 50 and older are also at a higher risk for influenza-related complications and should be vaccinated annually.

The government responded to the shortage optimistically.

"(We are) confident that the vaccine will be available to vaccinate those at highest risk of complications from influenza," it said.

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