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Patricia Johnson: ''The Flu Season Is Not Here''

''We Want People To Relax'' … ''The Flu Season Is Not Here''


By Patricia Johnson

Just exactly how is someone supposed to relax when their life is on the line?

Tommy Thompson may be the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, but he’s not at high risk for the flu. The above quote telling us to relax, that the flu season is not here was made by Thompson on October 18, 2004 (click here)

According to the Center of Disease Control, there are eight separate high risk ‘priority groups’ as follows:

Priority groups for vaccination with inactivated influenza vaccine this season are:
1. all children aged 6-23 months,
2. adults aged 65 years and older,
3. persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions,
4. all women who will be pregnant during influenza season,
5. residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities,
6. children 6 months-18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy,
7. health-care workers with direct patient care, and
8. out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged <6 months.

I fall into the third category “persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions”, so it is imperative that I receive a flu shot early in the season and normally have one by the middle of September.

What happens when a high-risk person doesn’t get a shot early? Last year when I went for my influenza vaccination I already had the flu, so I wasn’t able to have the vaccine and my doctor advised me to come back in two weeks.

Two weeks later I still had the flu, with complications, and my recovery from this debilitating illness took a full three months.

This year, when I saw my doctor the first week in September he advised that his vaccine was running late, so I did what every normal person does that wants to see their next birthday…. I called every clinic and hospital in my area checking flu clinic schedules.

Our particular area has flu clinics set up at numerous locations and if you miss a morning clinic, more than likely you’ll be able to find an afternoon or evening clinic that same day, within a few blocks of the original site.

When I was not able to locate any vaccine by the beginning of October, I was concerned that I would once again, fall prey to the flu bug before being inoculated, and that’s when the news hit.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) announcement was made on October 5, 2004 after being notified by Chiron Corporation that the influenza vaccine (Fluvirin®) would not be available for distribution in the United States. The Fluvirin vaccine would not be available due to United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, (MHRA) suspending Chiron’s license to manufacture Fluvirin vaccine, in Liverpool, for a period of three months.

We were told by the media that this wasn’t anything to be concerned about as almost 54 million does of Fluzone® (inactivated flu shot) manufactured by Aventis Pasteur, Inc. would be available, and 1.1 million doses of live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV/Flumist®) manufactured by Medlmmnune, would also be available.

Instead of flu shots being dispensed on a first-come-first-serve basis, they would be rationed to those in need according to the priority listing.

On October 6, 2004 my county issued a press release stating that all flu clinics were suspended. A call to my physician’s office indicated his supply still wasn’t in, and probably wouldn’t be; so I was given a listing of clinics to phone for the vaccine. All calls were in vain, there simply wasn’t any vaccine available.

So, I went to the next county, I found the locations of flu clinics in the next county and called to ensure that my “out of county” residence wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t-- or, at least it wasn’t until such time as they realized a flu vaccine could now be considered liquid gold.

After standing in line for several hours I was advised that the shots were being distributed to ‘local residents only’.

Normally I am a well-balanced, soft-spoken, easy-going individual, but I turned into a raving maniac when I called the Health Department. How does the agency that’s charged with ensuring your health not have any vaccine on hand?

Calling the Center for Disease Control saved the day as they were able to provide me with information on a clinic where the vaccine would be available. Unfortunately, the clinic was in a different state, but by this time I was ready to travel to a different country.

I left at an incredibly early hour in the morning and arrived at the designated location with an hour to spare. It was 9:00 a.m. and the clinic would not open until 10:00. With 77 people already in line ahead of me, I was prepared for a long day.

As it turned out, I was very fortunate – I received the vaccine and didn’t suffer any consequences.

Far too many seniors around the country are not as fortunate. They stand in line for hours upon hours only to be told there isn’t sufficient vaccine to go around, or have collapsed and died as a result of standing in the heat for long periods of time.

Some serious questions need to be answered by this administration and the first one should be how did this happen and what is being done to ensure that it never happens again?

What is almost unbelievable is the fact that we are using a sole source supplier -- in a foreign country, for something as critical as flu vaccine.

U.S. citizens cannot attempt to lower their medication costs by purchasing drugs from a foreign location, yet the government sees no problem with providing us with influenza vaccine manufactured in the U.K., and is now attempting to obtain additional vaccine from Canada, as indicated in the following excerpt from the third Presidential Debate:

SCHIEFFER: New question, Mr. President, to you.
We are talking about protecting ourselves from the unexpected, but the flu season is suddenly upon us. Flu kills thousands of people every year.
Suddenly we find ourselves with a severe shortage of flu vaccine. How did that happen?

BUSH: Bob, we relied upon a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizen, and it turned out that the vaccine they were producing was contaminated. And so we took the right action and didn‘t allow contaminated medicine into our country.
We‘re working with Canada to hopefully—that they‘ll produce a—help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season.

The U.S. Government may be telling you “not to worry”, but the fact is thousands of individuals die from influenza each season. Contact the Center for Disease Control to see where vaccine is available in your area.

  • 1-800-232-2522 (English)

  • 1-800-232-0233 (Español)

  • CDC's Flu Web site at www.cdc.gov/flu
  • *************

    ©2004 Patricia Johnson

    Patricia Johnson is a freelance writer and CEO of Articles and Answers. Visit us online at www.ArticlesandAnswers.com

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