By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 15, 2004
UA students will have a difficult time obtaining a flu shot this year, as local and national supplies are running out.
Most of the nation's remaining flu vaccine supply will be sent directly to facilities that serve children, the elderly and people with life-threatening illnesses.
Roberto Armijo, executive director of Community Information and Referral in Phoenix, and part of the Statewide Flu Hotline, said the United States received only 50 percent of the shipment it usually obtains from overseas, or about 55.4 million doses of the usual 100 million doses normally distributed each year.
Carrie Torrington, nursing coordinator for Campus Health Services, said the Chiron and Aventis Pasteur suppliers of the flu shot, based out of England, have been unsuccessful in distributing flu shots to the public across the United States because of possible bacterial contamination in the flu serum, halting its production.
But manufacturer Aventis Pasteur has agreed to ship 14.2 million new doses directly to hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and pediatricians nationwide within the next two months.
An additional 8.2 million doses will be distributed after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention obtains state data showing where the vaccine has been received and where it is still needed.
Torrington said Campus Health usually relies on the millions of doses from Chiron, but the company's license was taken away for three months by the British government for improper manufacturing practices.
"This has left us with a shortage of the flu vaccine," Torrington said.
Armijo said those older than 65, those who have life-threatening illnesses or diseases, pregnant women and children 6 months to 18 years old should visit a clinic and read the newspaper for updates on vaccination availability.
But many students say they aren't concerned about the shortage because they either never get a flu shot or don't think it's necessary.
"I've never gotten a flu shot and never believed I was in need of one," said Nathan Hadder, an astronomy junior.
Julie Gerace, a molecular and cellular biology senior, said she wasn't planning on getting a flu shot because she hates needles and doesn't get sick very often.
"If you give me an excuse not to get one, then I won't," Gerace said.
One way to avoid getting the flu and spreading it to other people is to boost the immune system by practicing good hygiene, drinking plenty of water and getting at least eight hours of sleep, Torrington said.
Healthology.com said getting a flu shot every year can protect people from spending weeks in bed, but the site also said people may want to spend a little more time in bed in advance of their flu shot. Studies show that chronic sleep loss may have a strong negative impact on how well the vaccine will work, according to the Web site.
Melanie Levine, a media arts junior, said she's constantly washing her hands and drinking a lot of water. She said she doesn't always get enough sleep and thinks people get sick without adequate amounts of it.
Armijo said the shot makes people immune to the disease throughout the flu season, even though the shot takes a while to kick in.
"Once you get the shot it takes three weeks to take effect," Armijo said, "but come November you're protected from the flu because it can last up to three months."
For more flu shot information, visit www.findaflushot.com..