Scramble for flu vaccine is heating up
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.
HOW TO TELL A COLD FROM THE FLU
The common cold and flu are caused by different viruses but can have some similar symptoms, making them tough to tell apart. In general, the flu is worse and symptoms are more intense.
Colds: Usual symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. Coughs are hacking and productive. It’s unusual to have fever, chills, headaches and body aches, and if they do occur, they are mild.
Flu: Fever is usually present, along with chills, headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and tiredness. Symptoms can come on rapidly, within three to six hours. Coughs are dry and unproductive, and sore throats are less common.
Prevention: To avoid colds and flu, wash your hands with warm water and soap after you’ve been out in public or around sick people. Don’t share cups or utensils. And get a flu vaccination — officials say it’s not too late, even in places where flu is raging.
Treatment: People with colds or mild cases of the flu should get plenty of rest and fluids. Those with severe symptoms, such as a high fever or difficulty breathing, should see a doctor and may be prescribed antiviral drugs or other medications. Children should not be given aspirin without a doctor’s approval.
Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Roche, maker of Tamiflu.
Missed flu-shot day at the office last fall? And all those “get vaccinated” ads? A scramble for shots is under way as late-comers seek protection from a miserable flu strain already spreading through much of the country.
Federal health officials said last Friday that there is still some flu vaccine available and it’s not too late to benefit from it. But people may have to call around to find a clinic with shots still on the shelf, or wait a few days for a new shipment.
“We’re hearing of spot shortages,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Colorado offers an example. Kaiser Permanente, which has 535,000 members in the state, stopped giving flu shots this week. But it expected to resume vaccinations when new shipments arrive, expected this weekend.
Some questions and answers about flu vaccines:
Q: Are we running out of vaccine?
A: It’s January — we shouldn’t have a lot left. The traditional time to get vaccinated is in the fall, so that people are protected before influenza starts spreading.
Indeed, manufacturers already have shipped nearly 130 million doses to doctors’ offices, drugstores and wholesalers, out of the 135 million doses they had planned to make for this year’s flu season. At least 112 million have been used so far.
The nation’s largest manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said last Friday that it still has supplies of two specialty vaccines, a high-dose shot for seniors, and an under-the-skin shot for certain adults, available for immediate shipment. But it also is working to eke out a limited supply of its traditional shots — some doses that it initially hadn’t packaged into syringes, said spokesman Michael Szumera. They should be available late this month.
And MedImmune, the maker of the nasal spray vaccine FluMist, said it has 620,000 extra doses available.
Q: Can’t they just make more?
A: No. Flu vaccine is complicated to brew, with supplies for each winter made months in advance and at the numbers expected to sell. Although health officials recommend a yearly flu vaccination for nearly everybody, last year 52 percent of children and just 39 percent of adults were immunized. Most years, leftover doses have to be thrown out.
AP Medical Writers Lindsey Tanner and Mike Stobbe contributed to this report.