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Wednesday January 17, 2001

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Flu shot shortage echoed by surplus

By Ayse Guner

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Campus health facilities have more than 4,000 vaccines to

The flu vaccine shortage that hit Tucson - including UA Campus Health services and UMC - in September has turned into a surplus after both facilities have given out only a fraction of the stock they recently received.

University of Arizona faculty and students seeking flu shots from university health facilities before the flu season hit in early winter waited two extra months for the vaccinations, because of slow distribution from manufacturing companies.

University Medical Center received 2,500 doses of the vaccine about two weeks ago, and only 300 of those have been given out so far, said Connie Glasby, director of the infection control program at University Medical Center.

UMC only offers vaccines - at no cost - to Arizona Science Center employees, UMC physicians and medical students.

Still, even in the midst of the flu season, immunization officials urge everyone to get a shot as soon as possible to prevent influenza.

"The vaccine is readily available and it is not too late to get it," Glasby said.

The vaccination delay was the first one UMC had experienced in the last 10 years, but because the flu season approached in late December this year - which is considered to be of a late start for Tucson's flu cases - the shortage did not lead to an increased number of people infected, Glasby said.

"If people wanted to get it (the vaccination), they could get it," she said.

Still, the shortage caused exaggerated public anxiety, especially with the much-publicized cases of people waiting in long lines at local food and drug stores to receive the shot, she added.

Although it also has an excess of flu shots, more people have stopped by Campus Health for their vaccines. Campus Health received 4,500 vaccines after Thanksgiving and about 2,500 people have come in for shots, said Jolie Schaeffler, immunization nurse.

Ten people stopped by Campus Health during the last month complaining of flu-like symptoms, but only one of those patients actually had the flu, said Theresa West, Campus Health administrative assistant.

Leslie Tom, an architecture sophomore, got her flu shot yesterday after waiting since November to be vaccinated.

"The College of Architecture offered shots in November, but we got a call saying they ran out of vaccine and (to) find your own shot," she said.

The flu shot works by helping the body promote a flu antibody. The person develops immunity two weeks after the injection, and the shot can prevent or lessen the contraction of pneumonia and influenza for up to four months.

The shot should be repeated every fall, especially by people older than 50, children and adults with asthma and women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season, health officials recommend.

Lisette LeCorgne, a nurse practitioner at Campus Health, offered more straightforward advice.

"Stay away from anyone coughing or sneezing," she said.

Ayse Guner can be reached at