Seasonal flu vaccine supplies lower than expected in some places

Despite problems, 115 million doses of the vaccine should be ready by the end of November.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Oct. 14, 2009

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Some physicians and nurses have reported running through their supplies of seasonal flu vaccine earlier than expected and have been unable to order more. Others said they received many fewer doses than ordered.

Meanwhile, some physicians and hospitals say more people than usual are seeking immunizations early, probably because of the heightened attention being paid to the pandemic H1N1 flu.

Drug companies acknowledged that customers will receive slightly fewer seasonal flu doses than expected, in part because production lines were turned over to manufacture the influenza A (H1N1) vaccine. About 115 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine should be available by the end of November, an increase from the 103 million doses used last year, manufacturers say.

But all vaccine doses have been prebooked, and manufacturers say they are not taking new orders. If doses become available, information will be posted on the Web site of the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, which is co-sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (link).

In one shortfall situation, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline told customers in early September that its flu shot tally would be 18 million doses instead of the 20 million doses planned. The firm faced production problems, a spokesman said.

Drug company Sanofi Pasteur is providing 50.5 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine this season, slightly more than last year. "We expect that all of the customers who have booked with us this season will receive all the doses they ordered in time to immunize in accordance with the CDC recommendations," said spokeswoman Donna Cary.

The flu season traditionally runs through the early part of the following year, so there is still time to administer the vaccine, health officials said.

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