Archive for Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Local flu vaccines in very short supply

October 13, 2004

Last year, Tonganoxie physician Philip Stevens provided 800 area residents with flu vaccines.

This year, Stevens won't administer any flu shots. He has no vaccine, and, in fact, he's been told the 500 doses he ordered won't arrive.

According to the Leavenworth County Health Department, these people are in priority groups for the flu vaccine:

¢ All children who are between 6 months and 23 months old.

¢ Adults who are 65 years and older.

¢ People between the ages of 2 and 64 with underlying chronic medical conditions.

¢ All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.

¢ Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

¢ Children between the ages of ages of 6 months and 18 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy.

¢ Health-care workers involved in direct patient care.

¢ People who have contact with anyone in a high-risk group, including parents or other people who have close contact with children who are 6 to 23 months or with senior citizens.

Stevens is among thousands of health-care providers nationwide who are reeling after last week's disclosure that the vaccine supply in the United States would be about half the amount originally expected because a British supplier's operations had been suspended because of contamination problems.

The county health department reports it's received about half the amount of vaccine it had ordered.

"We are slated for a final shipment this month, and will be notified if and when this will take place," said Sylvia Burns, health department administrative director.

And so the health department -- and Tonganoxie's Dr. Bill Weatherford -- are limiting any vaccines to so-called priority groups. The health department is continuing with its schedule of flu vaccination clinics, as long as supplies hold.

Like Stevens, Tonganoxie's third doctor, Deborah Gammill, has no vaccine.

"We have none. We are getting none," one of her employees said.

At Weatherford's practice, Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, it's a guessing game as to how many doses the office ultimately will receive.

"We have a very limited amount," Weatherford said. "We're not sure how much we're going to have."

For now, he's holding those doses for his patients who are in the priority groups.

"What we've been telling people is to give us a call in a week or two," Weatherford said. "I think we're getting most of the people in our clinic taken care of."

He said he's administered between 30 and 40 vaccines.

The Leavenworth County Health Department has set times for members of the public to receive flu and pneumonia vaccines. The cost is $15 for a flu shot and $22 for a pneumonia shot.

The public clinics will be:

¢ 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, health department, 500 Eisenhower Rd., Suite 101, Leavenworth.


¢ 3 p.m-7 p.m. Oct. 25, Food 4 Less, 20th Street, Leavenworth.

¢ 3 p.m-7 p.m. Oct. 27, Food 4 Less, 20th Street, Leavenworth.

¢ 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 28, Leavenworth County Council on Aging, 109-A Delaware, Leavenworth.


¢ 10 a.m.-noon Nov. 3, Linwood Methodist Church.

¢ 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 3, Basehor City Hall.

¢ 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 10, Tonganoxie City Council Chambers.

¢ 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 17, health department, 500 Eisenhower Rd., Suite 101, Leavenworth.

¢ 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at St. Lawrence Church, Easton.

"We're getting a few at a time from Lawrence Memorial Hospital," he said. "But how long that will go on, we don't know."

Like other health-care providers in the United States, Weatherford was caught flat-footed by the news last week about the reduction in available vaccine.

"We were not expecting that at all," he said. "We were expecting to have 300 shots and be able to offer them to everybody in the community who wanted them."

Weatherford downplayed the effects of the flu on healthy people who are not in a priority group.

"I think, for most people, having the flu is not that serious, especially for younger people," he said. "... It's not something, I think, people have to panic about. Most people don't get the flu in the winter."

Last week, Stevens said he was notified that his shipment of vaccine would not arrive.

"We had been waiting, waiting and waiting," Stevens said. "Usually, the company ships it on Labor Day."

Stevens said that an anti-viral treatment is available for people who do contract the flu and whose temperatures soar to 101 degrees.

"You can treat it now," he said. "But, of course, you'd rather not get it.

And he suggests that people who are not in a priority group should take precautions in January and February -- peak flu months.

"Stay out of crowds as much as they can," he said. "That's usually the peak season when it spreads."

As a health-care provider who's 77, Stevens clearly falls into several priority groups.

Will he try to get a flu vaccine?

"If I can find one," he said. "I may have to go to Price Chopper to do it."

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