ATLANTA (AP) -- The federal Centers for Disease Control yesterday downplayed reports by flu vaccine distributors that the early winter flu season is draining the supply of vaccine.
The CDC said while there are shortages in some areas, there is still enough vaccine for the people the flu threatens the most -- the elderly and people with chronic lung and heart disorders.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the manufacturers say they have sold virtually all the vaccine. But the companies refused to say how much they produced. The Atlanta-based CDC had estimated that vaccine production this year was enough for 30 million people.
The CDC doesn't keep track of how many people are vaccinated or monitor sales of the vaccine to doctors and clinics. But CDC spokesman Bob Howard emphasized that health departments are not reporting the widespread shortages that the companies are.
"We hear that the vaccine is available, but there are shortages in some areas. It might not be available from every health care office," Mr. Howard said.
He said people at high risk for complications "need to seek it out."
Flu seasons vary by region, but typically do not begin in force until December. Federal health officials began warning in October that this winter's flu strains would be widespread.
The CDC said it has confirmed 74 outbreaks of flu in 21 states.