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Healthy folks asked to delay flu vaccination


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Everyone from county health agencies to private health care providers expect to have ample supplies of flu vaccine this year.

But in case something happens to shorten the supply, state officials are asking healthy people to wait until Oct. 24 or later to be vaccinated. Initially, the vaccine is for people who have a heightened risk of becoming seriously ill from common strains of influenza.

County health agencies and major health care organizations said they would cooperate with the policy.

The high-risk group includes those 65and older, residents of long-term care facilities, health care workers, pregnant women, children between 6 and 23months old, anyone with chronic health problems and anyone who lives with or takes care of children younger than 6 months old.

Stanislaus County has scheduled public flu shot clinics for October and November. Merced County will provide vaccine at special clinics in November, but only for people 60 and older and individuals ages 18 to 59 who have chronic illnesses.

Flu shots will be available for Merced County children age 6months to 23 months at the county's regular immunization clinics, said Annie Carlson, supervising public health nurse.

San Joaquin County will provide flu shots the first two weeks in November but is not releasing the schedule until it's certain that vaccine will be available. Free vaccine for people 65 and older will available at the Tuolumne County health fair Oct. 18-19.

Nancy Bancroft, public health nurse for the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, said there should be an abundance of vaccine as long as a manufacturer in England passes addi-tional government inspections.

A nationwide shortage resulted last year when regulators shut down the Chiron Corp. manufacturing plant in Liverpool, England.

The Food and Drug Administration said in late August that Chiron has taken corrective actions that are "generally acceptable." The company's flu vaccine will be accepted pending additional approvals from the FDA and successful production and testing of the vaccine.

The company expects to have the final government approvals in October, said Alison Marquiss, a Chiron spokeswoman.

More flu clinics

Chiron Corp. plans to make 18million to 26 million doses of the flu vaccine. The largest manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur Inc., is projecting production of 60 million doses. GlaxoSmithKline Inc. also received a license to produce flu vaccine this year and plans to make 8 million doses.

Of the 12,000 doses it expects to have this year, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency is relying on getting more than 3,000 doses of Chiron's vaccine, Bancroft said.

This year, the agency is doing more to offer flu shots to seniors and others in the high-risk category.

For example, two new clinics are planned at the St. Joseph's and St. Stanislaus Catholic churches in Modesto, which have parish nurses who administer to elderly members of those churches, Bancroft said.

Many of the county flu shot clinics are held at senior nutrition sites and are geared for people who have limited transportation. The cost is $15. The clinics accept Medicare Part B coverage with no co-payment required.

"We do encourage people, if they have a health care provider, to obtain flu shots from their doctors and save this vaccine for people who don't have the resources," Bancroft said.

Kaiser Permanente said it's making flu shots available to members in the high-risk category Oct. 15 and to others starting Oct. 24. Spokeswoman Alix Sabin said Kaiser is purchasing vaccine from suppliers other than Chiron.

Sutter Gould Medical Foundation has not received vaccine. The physicians group has scheduled flu shot clinics for its patients after Oct. 24. High-risk patients can get flu shots from their doctors once the vaccine is available, said Craig Baize, a Sutter Gould spokesman.

Flu shots also are available through Maxim Health Systems, which will hold clinics in major stores starting next week. Clinics are planned in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced and Tuolumne counties. The charge is $25; the company accepts Medicare Part B with no co-payment required.

"We are giving priority to high-risk individuals in our first tier of vaccinations and then opening it up to everyone," said Steve Wright, national director for Maxim.

On the Net: www.findaflushot.com.

Knight Ridder Newspapers contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at 578-2321 or kcarlson@modbee.com.

For more coverage from The Modesto Bee, or to start home delivery, go to http://www.modbee.com.

©2004 The Modesto Bee. All Rights Reserved.

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