Oct 18, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today increased its estimate of the flu vaccine supply for this season but said many healthcare providers don't have their full supply yet because of distribution issues.
At a press conference today, Jeanne Santoli, MD, MPH, deputy director of the CDC's immunization services division, said about 115 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this season, which is 15 million more than the agency's September projection. She said 40 million doses were distributed by the end of the second week of October, and that 75 million doses would be distributed by the end of the month.
"That's 15 million more than last October," Santoli said.
The CDC's revised estimate follows the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Oct 5 approval of another flu vaccine, ID Biomedical's FluLaval. The CDC had said in September that licensing of FluLaval could boost the US supply for this year to 115 million doses.
The CDC has received some complaints from heathcare providers who have received only partial shipments of the vaccine they ordered, Santoli said. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics said this week that most doses of the only flu vaccine approved for use in children aged 6 months to 3 years, Sanofi's Pasteur's Fluzone, won't be available until at least November. Sanofi announced last week that delivery of the vaccine would be about 3 weeks later than last year.
Though some vaccine manufacturers said earlier this year that they had trouble with a slow-growing strain of one of the viruses used in this season's vaccine, Santoli said the companies have told the CDC that they've since overcome those problems.
"The most important thing is how many doses, and 75 million in October is a lot of vaccine," she said. "To us, it feels like the vaccine will get out there when it's needed."
Because flu vaccine sales and distribution are handled by private companies, the CDC can't control the flow of the product to customers. Many vaccine distributors voluntarily submit product tracking information to the CDC, but the distribution status is often unclear. "It's hard to predict when orders will be delivered, and this uncertainty presents providers a challenge in planning vaccine activity," Santoli said.
"There's no mechanism to know how many doses providers have received," she said.
Vaccine distributors take a phased approach to product delivery, so that all customers receive some of their doses early in the season and can begin immunizing high-risk patients and their household contacts, Santoli said.
The CDC is making a point of not calling distribution issues a delay, she said. When that language was used last year, it "caused people to step aside and not get the vaccine," she said, adding that the CDC wants to give providers as much information about distribution as possible so they can plan their immunization activities accordingly.
Also, the CDC is not recommending that high-risk people be immunized first this year. "With the large amount available, we want as many people as possible to be immunized," she said.
Administering the flu vaccine in November, December, January and beyond is consistent with federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations, Santoli said, noting that flu cases often peak in February or later.
Santoli said the 3-week delay of Fluzone should not impair the benefits of vaccination for young children, and she advised parents to continue seeking the vaccine from their children's' healthcare providers.
In June, federal health officials recommended that toddlers aged 2 through 4 years be immunized against influenza each year, adding millions of people to the groups included in flu vaccination recommendations.
Oct 17 CIDRAP News story "Flu vaccine delay affects toddlers"
Oct 5 CIDRAP News story "FDA approves 5th flu vaccine"