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You can expect delays in flu vaccine delivery
Slow pace of distribution is normal
If you were frustrated by the slow delivery of influenza vaccine last fall, public health officials have a message for you: Get used to it.
Gone are the days when hospitals received all their vaccine in one shipment and began vaccinating in late September. Flu vaccine manufacturers are making more vaccine than ever before — but they release the vaccine gradually, as it is ready. "There are capacity issues about how many doses can be produced," says Greg Wallace, MD, MS, MPH, chief of the Vaccine Supply and Assurance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Even [a delay of] two or three weeks can cause a lot of logistical nightmares."
The CDC now is recommending that hospitals and other providers begin vaccinating as soon as they get vaccine, but continue their vaccinations through January. About 130 million doses will likely be available for the next flu season, according to manufacturer projections. That is significantly more than the 100 million distributed in the past flu season.
'A lot more complexities now'
The rapid growth in vaccine production creates challenges for distribution, notes Wallace. "Even if you go back as few as 10 years ago, it was a much smaller system," he says. "There are a lot more complexities now."
Many health care providers were upset last fall when they had only partial delivery of their vaccine supply but area retailers, such as Wal-Mart, were offering mass vaccination campaigns. In fact, all vaccine purchasers received a portion of their order, says Wallace. "By the end of September, providers had 40% of what was out there. They had their fair share," he says.
Hospitals should schedule vaccination clinics in October, but continue vaccination efforts through November, December, and even January. "Use what you have. There's more coming," Wallace says.