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Flu Vaccine Becoming Scarce in the U.S.

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NEW YORK, Dec 06, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Fears are mounting that supplies of flu vaccines are running out in the United States at a time when influenza is popping up earlier than normal.

Vaccine makers said Friday they had shipped out their entire supplies, and health officials said they were trying to determine whether there was enough vaccine left to immunize people who still want flu shots, the New York Times reported.

More vaccine cannot be made in time for this year's flu season.

Fears of the disease, prompted by unusually early and widespread outbreaks, mostly in Western states, have fueled a high demand for the vaccine.

"This is looking like a year when more vaccine is being used by more people in the United States than any other year," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, chief of the influenza epidemiology branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Vaccine supplies are getting smaller. One of the things we're trying to do right now is get a sense of how much vaccine is out there."

The nation's two vaccine makers, Aventis Pasteur and Chiron, said they had shipped out all the vaccine they had made, a total of about 80 million doses.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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