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Paynesville Press - November 7, 2001

PAHCS expecting additional flu vaccines

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) has already used 1,250 flu vaccines and is waiting for additional supplies to arrive.

Because of supply problems a year ago, PAHCS took the precaution of ordering its vaccine supplies from two different suppliers in 2001, said Rosemary Devlin, clinic manager for PAHCS. PAHCS ordered half its vaccine supply on a private contract and the other half on the multi-state contract, where prices are negotiated on behalf of hospitals and public health departments.

A year ago, manufacturing problems led to late, and limited, supplies of the flu vaccine. The state set criteria for hospitals and public health departments to follow when dispensing the vaccine, to insure that the most at-risk people were vaccinated first.

The vaccine was in such demand from the general public last year that retailers were willing to buy the vaccine from suppliers for several times the price of the multi-state contract, causing even more delays.

PAHCS was forced to buy vaccine a year ago by private contract and got half its supply this year that way, said Devlin.

By having the earliest walk-in flu clinics in the area this year, the public demand was great. PAHCS has vaccinated 669 people in three walk-in clinics so far. It has also offered the shots to patients in its main clinic and its satellite clinics and to residents in long-term care facilities.

Normally, health care staff would also be vaccinated right away, but vaccinations for these people will have to wait until the second half of PAHCS's vaccine supply arrives.

Originally, PAHCS had been told that the other half of its supply was being held by its multi-state contract supplier and could be shipped as soon as needed. But PAHCS started to receive strangely ominous communications a few weeks ago, said Devlin. Letters and calls would get different answers about the whereabouts of the shipment, followed by promises of delivery.

This is the same type of run-around as last year, said Devlin, when the multi-state contract wasn't honored in a timely manner as drug companies sold the vaccine to retailers at higher prices.

As soon as the rest of the vaccine arrives, health care workers will be vaccinated and at least another walk-in clinic will be held, said Devlin.

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