Caught between an increasing demand and a dwindling supply of flu vaccine, the Carroll County Health Department announced yesterday that it will administer FluMist - a recently developed nasal spray - at a yet-to-be scheduled clinic early next month.
The county expects to receive 560 doses of the vaccine from Gaithersburg-based MedImmune Inc. within the next few weeks, said Larry L. Leitch, director of the county Health Department. Leitch said the Health Department will announce a time for the inoculations when the vaccine arrives.
Healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49 will be eligible for the nasal spray, which is a live, weakened form of the flu virus. The elderly, the very young, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems and long-term health problems would be at risk from the vaccine.
The state has purchased 25,000 doses of FluMist. Because the vaccine must be stored in commercial freezers, Carroll County can accept only seven cases, each with 80 doses, said Leitch.
"As we use those, we may be able to get more," he said.
He expects the cost of the vaccines to be $20 per dose. The county Health Department has vaccinated about 7,000 people in the past two months, a number Leitch said was typical of past years when clinics were scheduled from October through December. At the last adult flu shot clinic Friday, people began waiting before 7 a.m. and were lined up around the building before the clinic opened shortly after 8 a.m., said Debbie Middleton, program manager for communicable diseases.
Five nurses gave the available 350 shots in about an hour and closed the clinic, which normally operates until 11:30 a.m., Middleton said. As many as 200 people were turned away.
"People are more alarmed this year," Leitch said. "The media constantly reports a pandemic of flu is coming, and it may be. This is a cyclical event. We have had a lot of calls every day for weeks."
Although the state expects to receive 1,690 doses of injectable vaccine from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 810 pediatric doses for children younger than 35 months, Leitch said he does not think Carroll will get any of that shipment. "If we get any, it won't be very much," he said.
A children's clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Health Department in Westminster. "We don't have much, and we may run out," said Leitch.
The state is reporting 400 confirmed cases of the flu, but Leitch said he is not certain how many people in Carroll have contracted the illness.
"At this time of year, there is a wide variety of viral illnesses that are often not the flu," Leitch said. "Most have influenzalike illness."