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Flu Season a Slow Starter

By: Lindsay Liepman
By: Lindsay Liepman

Local health agencies are still waiting on flu vaccines.

A national shortage has trickled down and things aren't getting any better.

But a surprisingly slow start to the flu season may spell relief.

Long lines for the flu shot have dwindled. And a slow start to the flu season that pales in comparison to last year is helping health providers cope with the vaccine shortage.

"A slow start to the flu season is kind of a blessing in disguise," says St. Joseph Regional Health Center Spokeswoman Angela Clendenin.

St. Joseph Regional Health Center is one of many local hospitals experiencing the shortage.

"Currently at St. Joseph we exhausted all the supply we had. All health care providers have been under the strict CDC guidelines for high risk patients and by following those guidelines we've been able to take care of our team-members, at risk patients and that pretty much exhausted our supply," says Clendenin.

The College Station Med is encouraging at-risk groups to get a pneumonia shot because flu can turn into pneumonia in later stages.

Scott and White also had a limited supply of flu shots and have only been able to vaccinate at-risk patients.

If the flu season remains moderately slow the impact of the flu shot shortage will not be as devastating.

"So far the flu season has been relatively slow. There have been some reported cases in the county but the numbers aren't high. We're still early in the season," says Dr. Charles Williams of the Brazos County Health Dept.

The Brazos County Health Department hopes part of the one million flu vaccines the government is trying to secure for Americans will also soften the blow.

But more vaccines are not expected until January.

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Influenza Vaccine

  • Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.
  • Influenza vaccine is specifically recommended for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications as a result of influenza infection.
  • These high-risk groups are:
    • All people age 65 and older.
    • People of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia.
    • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities housing patients of any age.
    • Women who will be more then three months pregnant during influenza season.
    • Children and teenagers who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who may therefore be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection.

  • Overall vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the influenza season.

  • Influenza vaccine produced in the United States cannot cause influenza.

  • The only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection.

When to receive the influenza vaccine

  • In the United States, influenza usually occurs from about November until April, with activity peaking between late December and early March.

  • The optimal time for vaccination of persons at high risk for influenza-related medical complications is during October through November.

  • It takes about 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm ( The Center for Disease Control Vaccine Information Web site)


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