Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 322 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 17-Nov-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 18-Nov-2004
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Flu prevention 2004-2005: An update

In October 2004, Chiron Corp. notified U.S public health officials that none of its influenza vaccine, Fluvirin, would be available for distribution in the United States for the 2004-2005 influenza season. This reduces the expected supply of inactivated vaccine used in flu shots, since Chiron would have provided between 46 million and 48 million doses. The company's action came after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom had suspended Chiron's license to manufacture Fluvirin in its Liverpool, England, facility for three months.

The remaining influenza vaccine expected to be available in the United States this season is about 54 million doses of Fluzone, manufactured by Aventis Pasteur. In addition, approximately 1.1 million doses of FluMist (influenza virus vaccine live, intranasal), manufactured by MedImmune, will be available.

Because of this urgent situation, the CDC, in coordination with its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, has issued interim recommendations about who should be vaccinated with the flu shot this flu season. People who are not included in one of the priority groups should forgo or defer vaccination so that the most vulnerable populations can be vaccinated.

Priority groups who should be vaccinated with the flu shot this season:

  • all children ages 6 months to 23 months
  • adults ages 65 years and up
  • people ages 2 to 64 with underlying chronic medical conditions
  • all women who will be pregnant during the flu season
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • children ages 6 months to 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy
  • health care workers with direct patient care
  • out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children younger than 6 months.

Other vaccine recommendations:

  • Healthy people who are ages 5 to 49 and not pregnant, including health care workers (except those who care for severely immunocompromised patients in special care units) and persons caring for children under 6 months should be encouraged to be vaccinated with FluMist.
  • People in the priority groups identified above should be encouraged to search locally for vaccine if their usual health care provider doesn't have vaccine available.
  • Many children under age 9 require two doses of vaccine if they have not been previously vaccinated. All children at high risk of complications from influenza, including those ages 6 months to 23 months, should be vaccinated with a first or second dose, depending on vaccination status. However, doses should not be held in reserve to ensure that two doses will be available. Rather, available vaccine should be used to vaccinate people in priority groups on a first-come, first-served basis.

Who should not get flu vaccine:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs should not get a flu vaccination.
  • It is prudent for people who previously developed Guillain-Barr‚ syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu shot to avoid vaccination.

For More Information

CDC Web site

FDA Flu Informaiton Web site

CDC hotline
(888) 246-2675 (English)
(888) 246-2857 (Spanish)

About the Flu

Vaccination is the primary way to prevent the flu, and it lowers rates of illness, hospitalization, and deaths. The flu season in the United States typically runs from November to April.

The flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, is spread mainly from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and touching contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs. The main symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, cough, sore throat, and congestion.

Most people get over the flu in about a week, but it can lead to ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other complications. Each year, the illness causes an average of 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations. Most deaths occur in people with heart or lung diseases. Several studies have shown that children younger than 2, even if they are healthy, are more likely to be hospitalized when they have the flu than older children.

Last season, the CDC received reports of 152 flu-related deaths in children under 18. Most were younger than 5. Almost half had an underlying medical condition, but 40 percent were apparently healthy. Of the 135 children who died who could have been vaccinated, only five were adequately vaccinated against the flu.

Children ages 6 months and older can get the injectable flu shot, which contains dead influenza virus. It is not approved for use in children younger than 6 months. Two doses of inactivated flu vaccine given 30 days apart are recommended for previously unvaccinated children younger than 9.

FluMist (influenza virus vaccine live, intranasal), which is sprayed into both nostrils and contains weakened live virus, is not approved for use in children younger than 5. Two doses of live flu virus vaccine given 60 days apart are recommended for previously unvaccinated children younger than 9. FluMist is approved for use in healthy people ages 5 to 49 who are not pregnant.

Along with warding off flu through vaccination, people can lower the risk of infection by washing their hands frequently, covering their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick with the flu.

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