National flu vaccine shortage may continue

Shortage of influenza vaccine may continue into the 2005-2006 influenza season. As of late February, it was unclear whether Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, CA, would be able to resolve manufacturing problems in time to produce influenza vaccine by next fall. Chiron was one of the two major suppliers of flu vaccine in the United States.

However, GlaxoSmithKline of Middlesex, UK, which provides influenza vaccine in other countries, has applied for U.S. licensure, says Jeanne Santoli, MD, MPH, associate director for science in the Immunization Services Division of the National Immunization Program.

As of mid-January, 3.5 million doses remained for late-season vaccination, she reports. About 54.5 million doses had been delivered. According to a survey conducted from September to December 2004, about 59% of those older than 65 received the vaccine. They were a top priority group for vaccination. Only 8.3% of adults who were not in a priority group received the vaccine.

Public health officials will be working to improve the planning, development and delivery of influenza vaccine, CDC director Julie L. Gerberding said in a press briefing. "We simply have to come up with some more robust manufacturing process," she said. "We need a supply that is reliable."