October flu shots should be reserved for vulnerable groups, CDC says

Oct 4, 2001 (CIDRAP News) – Predicting that 44% of this year's supply of influenza vaccine won't be available until November and December, federal health officials are recommending that vaccine doses available in October be reserved for healthcare workers and people who have an increased risk of influenza complications.

"Please allow those people who will benefit most from the vaccine—those over 64 years old and those with chronic (long-term) health conditions—to get their shots as soon as vaccine becomes available," states a message on the influenza home page of the National Immunization Program's (NIP's) Web site. "Everyone else should wait until November and later to get protection when the supplies are more plentiful."

The NIP projects that 79.1 million doses of vaccine will be distributed this year—more than in 2000, when supplies were delayed, and about the same as in 1999. About 56% of the vaccine supply will be available by the end of October, and an additional 31% will be delivered in November, the agency predicts. The final 13% is expected in early December.

The recommendation to reserve early supplies of vaccine for vulnerable groups was first made in July by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a CDC report in the Sep 28 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. ACIP recommended that healthcare providers wait until November to provide vaccine to contacts of high-risk people, people aged 50 to 64 years, and others who want to reduce their risk of influenza. In addition, ACIP advised vaccine manufacturers and distributors to wait until November to distribute vaccine to worksites and "to process orders so that all providers who have ordered vaccine receive some early season vaccine," the MMWR report states.

See also:

NIP Web page providing updates on vaccine availability:

Update: Influenza activity—United States and worldwide, May-September 2001. MMWR 50(38):822-5

This week's top reads