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Volume 6, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

UH Health Center runs out of flu vaccine

Local shortage mirrors national trend

By Dusti Rhodes
Breaking News

The University Health Center reported it has run out of influenza vaccinations, part of a large national demand for the immunization that has led to shortages across the country.

Health Center Director Floyd Robinson said about 1,750 vaccinations were administered at the center this year, more than twice the usual average of 700 a year. The center had to reorder the vaccine twice to meet demand, Robinson said.

He said the greater demand for the vaccine was caused in large part by media coverage of flu outbreaks this fall.

The nation's two manufacturers of flu vaccine, Chiron and Aventis Pasteur, make about 80 million doses of the injected vaccine each year and announced earlier this month that their supplies for 2003 had all been shipped.

Manufacturing the flu vaccine takes about nine months, by which time the flu season will be over. However, recent reports indicate scientists are at work on a new process using genetically modified material that could reduce the production time.

Two companies experimenting with the new process, Baxter International and Chiron Corporation, said they hope to have U.S. regulatory approval for the new process by 2007, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday.

Although most people usually receive their flu shots in October and November, Robinson said flu cases reach their peak in January and February.

That could be bad news for anyone who didn't get a flu shot this year. Robinson said only about 1,000 vaccinations are left in Houston, and those will be given to people ages 65 and older because they are the most vulnerable to flu.

Robinson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are looking at the possibility of purchasing more vaccine from Europe.

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