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Paynesville Press - October 13, 2004

Limited vaccine supply forces PAHCS to postpone flu clinics

By Michael Jacobson

Due to a limited supply of flu vaccines, the Paynesville Area Health Care System will have to postpone its annual walk-in flu clinics, which were scheduled to start this week.

Last week, British officials closed a manufacturing plant in England owned by one of the United States' two flu vaccine suppliers, reducing the amount of vaccine available in America.

The Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) ordered flu vaccine from both companies, said clinic manager Dorothy Winkelman, so fortunately PAHCS has 700 doses, but that is not enough to offer the vaccine to the general public. PAHCS had planned to hold four walk-in flu clinics in October and November, but these have been postponed until PAHCS receives more flu vaccine.

First to receive the vaccines that PAHCS has received will be residents in long-term care, said Winkelman, who are at a high risk to get the flu.

Next, PAHCS will target people 65 years of age and older who have a chronic disease - such as diabetes, asthma, pulmonary disease, heart disease, or cancer - that puts them at risk. Anyone wanting to get the vaccine from PAHCS needs to contact their doctor and get a recommendation from their doctor that they should receive the vaccine, Winkelman said.

Because prime flu season in Minnesota is December and January, PAHCS will wait until the start of November to administer its current flu doses. The flu vaccine takes two weeks to provide maximum protection, and it decreases in effectiveness over time, explained Winkelman, so the November vaccination start should provide maximum protection.

PAHCS was lucky to order early and to get these 700 doses from the other vaccine manufacturer before the news broke about the vaccine shortage last week, said Winkelman. All of their vaccines are safe, she added.

Should PAHCS get more doses of flu vaccines, including pediatric vaccine, walk-in flu vaccines may be possible this winter.

Average adults, said Winkelman, may get sick from the flu but should recover, which is why health officials have targeted at-risk people with the limited flu vaccines. Many staff members at PAHCS have decided to forgo getting vaccines this year, said Winkelman, because they are healthy, though they are at greater risk to get the flu because of their work.

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