Yesterday public health officials announced that flu vaccine supplies should be approximately what was
distributed last year; however, they also noted a substantial amount of vaccine will reach providers later
than usual. In June, influenza vaccine manufacturers told federal public health officials to expect delays
in flu vaccine shipments this flu season and possible shortages.
Flu vaccine is the best tool to prevent severe illness and death related to influenza among the elderly
and chronically ill in the United States. CDC’s overriding public health concern has been to prevent
hospitalizations and deaths, especially among high risk persons, that could result from an insufficient
supply of flu vaccine. Therefore, since June, CDC has been developing contingency plans and if needed, CDC
has guaranteed the production of up to 9 million doses of additional influenza vaccine to make up for
possible shortfalls experienced by some of the vaccine manufacturers.
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 66 million doses will be available from manufacturers
through normal production plus 9 million doses to be guaranteed by CDC for a total of 75 million doses. The
75 million doses this flu season should meet the expected usual annual demand. During last year’s flu
season in the United States, an estimated 74 million doses were distributed to providers from the 80 to 85
million doses produced. Although a severe flu vaccine shortfall is no longer expected, the vaccine delays
will continue to challenge influenza vaccination efforts this flu season in the United States.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met Sept. 28, by teleconference, to review
recommendations about the timing and priority of flu vaccination in the United States for this upcoming flu
season. The first public health priority is to help ensure high risk persons who choose to be
vaccinated can obtain vaccine to help prevent the flu and complications related to influenza illness. The
ACIP recommended the following:
- As vaccine first becomes available, vaccination efforts should be focused on persons at high risk of
complications associated with influenza disease and on health care workers (Health care workers should be
vaccinated to stop the potential spread to vulnerable persons). These efforts should continue into
December and later, as long as influenza vaccine is available.
- Mass vaccination campaigns should be scheduled later in the season as availability of vaccine is
assured. Increase efforts to vaccinate high risk persons and their household contacts, but other
persons need not be turned away.
- Special efforts should be undertaken in December and later to vaccinate persons 50-64 years of age who
are not at high risk and are not household contacts of high risk persons.
- Immunization efforts for all groups (e.g., high risk persons, health care workers, household contacts
of high risk persons, other persons 50-64 years of age, and other people who wish to decrease their risk
of influenza) should continue into December and later, as long as influenza vaccine is available.
- Assuring pneumoccocal vaccination of high risk persons early in the influenza season, in accordance
with ACIP recommendations, will confer substantial protection from a major complication of influenza,
secondary bacterial pneumonia, but is not a substitute for influenza vaccine.
The degree of delay for individual providers will vary, depending on the vaccine manufacturer,
distributor, and when vaccine was ordered. Officials urge high risk persons to remain patient but persistent
as they work with their health care provider to obtain their annual flu vaccination. At the same time, CDC
will be working with states, industry and health systems to help providers obtain vaccine for high risk
persons. For example, this fall a new CDC Internet website will help providers and distributors make contact
about where to obtain additional influenza vaccine supplies.
In previous flu seasons, although the number has been increasing, only about half of the 70 to 76 million
persons CDC estimates are at high risk for complications from flu have received vaccine. The high risk
populations include approximately 35 million persons aged 65 years or older, 33 to 39 million persons less
that 65 years of age with high-risk medical conditions, and 2 million pregnant women.
Although the vaccine supply this year should be sufficient to meet the usual demand, the situation
remains fluid and some questions about supply and demand will remain unanswered until much later into the
flu season. All influenza vaccine for use in the United States is produced in the private sector and
virtually all flu vaccine is distributed in the United States through private-sector distributors for use by
health care providers.
The public and private communities will continue to work closely together to ensure the availability of
influenza vaccine for the season and to minimize the adverse impact of delays. For more information about
influenza disease and influenza vaccine visit CDC at www.cdc.gov.