Critical Path Network

CDC: Fire away with flu shots, more vaccine coming

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with influenza vaccine manufacturers to try to smooth out supply problems and ensure all providers get their slated doses, said Jeanne Santoli, MD, MPH, deputy director of the Immunization Services Division at the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

"There have been 40 million doses that were distributed to providers as of the end of the second week of October, and we are still on track to achieve 75 million doses to be distributed by the end of October," she said at a recent CDC press conference. "This is 15 million more doses that are compared to last October in terms of flu vaccine distribution."

The CDC projects some 115 million doses will be distributed this year, but there are some inevitable shipment delays because all the vaccine is not produced before the annual flu season begins.

"So this means that influenza vaccine distribution takes place in a phased fashion over a number of months," Santoli said. "It begins in late summer for some manufacturers and completes near the end of November or early in December. In addition, because the production and approval of doses is ongoing, it isn't easy to predict exactly when a particular order will be delivered very far in advance. Unfortunately, this situation leaves providers with the uncertainty about knowing when they can expect to receive their full order and the challenge that makes for their planning of vaccination activities."

Wide distribution

Though noting that "it is not possible for us to take away that uncertainty," Santoli said the CDC is trying to get some vaccine to a wide number of providers in order to allow immunization of high-risk patients and their household contacts.

"CDC is encouraging providers to take this phased nature of vaccine production and distribution into account as much as possible when they're planning how they'll vaccinate their patients," she said. "Almost all providers have some vaccine to allow them to begin vaccinating their patients, and we recommend beginning vaccination now, rather than waiting until more vaccine arrives."

More vaccine will be arriving throughout the season and providers should continue immunizing well into January 2007. "Vaccinating beyond November is important and beneficial because the peak of the season typically occurs in February or later and we know that many high-risk persons and their household contacts are recommended for vaccination but are not vaccinated by the end of November," Santoli said.