County Slates 1st Flu Clinic

Vaccine may not be as scarce as last year, but officials unsure about reliability of supply


The Carroll County Health Department has scheduled an Oct. 28 flu clinic, the first of what officials hope will be several opportunities for residents to be inoculated.

While supplies of the vaccine might not be as scarce as last year, when shortages forced the county to cancel several clinics, Larry L. Leitch, Carroll's health officer, was uncertain how many of the 7,500 doses ordered in January the department will receive.

"I have promises from the manufacturer that we will receive 2,000 doses this week and another shipment sometime later," Leitch recently told the county commissioners. "Beyond that, I have no assurances. This has given us a nightmare for scheduling clinics."

In a daylong clinic, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Health Department staff typically inoculate about 2,000 residents. During its first clinic last year, the county administered 2,553 doses of vaccine, and then had to cancel several other clinics for lack of vaccine.

Leitch has scheduled the "full-scale mass clinic" Oct. 28 and is making the inoculations available to any resident age 18 and older.

"I imagine we will see a lot of people," said Dianna Davis, director of nursing at the Health Department, who plans to have six inoculation stations at the first clinic. "People are more aware of the flu season and the vaccine."

In previous years, the first inoculations were reserved for those at high risk of contracting the flu, which kills 36,000 people in the United States every year. Those most at risk include the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems. Doctors, nurses and other workers who care for those patients also are inoculated in the first wave.

The severe, nationwide shortage of flu vaccine last year sent crowds to the first clinic - many residents thought it would be their only opportunity. As the shortage eased, several of the nine canceled clinics were rescheduled, and the county inoculated more than 7,000 residents, officials said.

"History indicates we will have at least 2,000 patients here for the first clinic," Leitch said. "We want to have vaccine for them. The last thing we want to do is turn people away."

The county expects to pay about $84,000 for 7,500 pre-filled syringes of the vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur, which manufactures pharmaceuticals in Swiftwater, Pa. Carroll patients pay $20 for a shot; many are eligible for reimbursement from Medicare.

The manufacturer had shipped through last month about 22 million doses nationwide, most of which is in 10-dose vials. The company expects to continue production and shipments through mid-November, said Len Lavenda, the firm's spokesman.

"We anticipate production of 60 million doses and to complete orders by the middle of next month," he said. "This is the most doses we have ever produced. At least 93 percent of our customers have received a portion of their original order."

Agencies such as the Carroll County Health Department that ordered the pre-filled syringes will be among the last to receive shipments. A message on the county's flu hot line says shipments are expected this week and next.

"If the manufacturer can honor our 7,500 doses, that should be enough for us to hold three or four more clinics," Leitch said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has said jurisdictions can hold mass clinics after Oct. 24. Clinics before that date would be restricted to priority patients.

"The thinking is that after mid-October, the CDC will be satisfied that nationwide distribution is going well," Leitch said. "We have learned recently that another manufacturer will be supplying vaccine to help mitigate any shortage."

The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Health Department, 290 S. Center St., Westminster. Information: 410-876-3003.

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