Flu Vaccine Not Available at SF State
High-cost mister alternative will also not be provided
October 16, 2004 12:46 PM
Flu shots will not be offered to SF State students this semester. Chiron, the largest U.S. supplier of the vaccine Fluvirin, announced that it would not distribute any of its scheduled 48 million doses to U.S. hospitals and clinics due to contamination of serratia at its Liverpool, England facility.
“We are not going to have the flu vaccine at all this semester,” says Kamal Harb, a health educator at SF State Student Health Services Center. “To prevent yourself from getting the flu, students should frequently wash their hands and stay away from other people who are sick. If you sneeze, do so in your sleeve, not your hands because you can transfer germs to your nose and mouth.”
Harb also suggests that students call their local Longs Drugs and Walgreens to see if they sell Flu Mist. “It’s a nasal spray that works just as well as the shot,” Herb said. “But it’s only for healthy people between the ages 5 and 59.”
The Student Health Center does not offer the Flu Mist because it’s too expensive. Harb said that the manufacturer charges $14 for each dose, and SF State would have to charge $25 dollars to cover administrative fees.
“If students buy it directly from a local pharmacy, it will only cost them $14,” said Harb. “We’re working with the manufacturer to lower the price, but as for now, students are better off purchasing it on their own.”
At a recent press conference, the Center for Disease Control asked that all healthy people between the ages of 2 to 64 abstain from seeking the Fluvirin influenza vaccine in order to make the limited quantity currently on hand available to those in high risk categories. But many people who work in hospitals, daycare centers and schools depend on the safeguards provided by the vaccine. They are now left vulnerable to cross contamination, which occurs when children pass flu germs to teachers, who can pass them to their family members, who can pass them to their friends and co-workers, etc.
When the shortage of Fluvirin was first made public two weeks ago, the CDC discouraged health officials from giving flu shots to low risk individuals. However, as of last Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fine any health care official who gives a flu shot to anyone that is not at high risk.
“This is so troubling and terrible,” said SF State nursing senior Katrina Weinskowski. “I am around so many people everyday, exposing myself to TB, flu, shingles and other contagious viruses and I worry about cross contamination to myself, students and elderly patients.”
Without a flu shot, Weinskowski said that her health and grades are at risk because she spends 14 hours per week on campus and 16 hours per week working in a hospital. But because she is not in the high-risk group, she is not eligible to receive a shot, despite the fact she works in a hospital.
Stuck in a windowless office at Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Monica Brown fielded over 200 calls in one eight-hour shift, involving inquires and requests for the flu vaccine.
“A panic seems to have taken over people’s minds,” said Brown, 24, a communication operator at Valley Medical Center. “We have people calling from all over the Bay Area looking for the shot. I have to tell them that we don’t have the vaccine available because we’re experiencing a shortage. And even if we did, they couldn’t get the shot unless they’re in one of the high risk groups.”
According to on-going reports, the CDC and HHS are relying on Aventis Pasteur to help alleviate the shortfall in availability in the flu vaccine.
“We do have an extensive waitlist for the vaccine due to the licensing problems of Chiron, but we expect to offer all those on the waitlist the vaccine by November,” said Monica, an Aventis representative who is only authorized to give her first name. “It only takes 4 months to produce the vaccine. If Chiron had known in August when they notified the public that there’d be a delay in distribution in their vaccine that they’d have licensing problems in October, Adventis would have been able to close the gap. But we have every expectation of full-filling the needs of the American public by November.”
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