Officials voice confidence on recalled swine flu vaccine

All doses in Md. probably used at full potency, they say

December 24, 2009|By Meredith Cohn | meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

About 98,400 doses of the batch of swine flu vaccine recalled this week by its Gaithersburg-based maker had been distributed in Maryland, but nearly all were likely used while still at full potency, state officials said.

The recall of 4.7 million doses of FluMist nationwide was announced Tuesday by maker MedImmune after tests showed that the doses, if not used, could be losing strength.

Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Wednesday that the state's allotment went to 142 providers here, including doctors, hospitals, clinics and all local health departments.

At least one local health department, in Anne Arundel County, has told the state that all of its doses were used in October, when they were fully potent - and state officials believe most, if not all, of the rest also were likely used when they were fully potent.

If not used immediately, the doses are not unsafe, said Frances Phillips, the state's deputy secretary for public health services. They just might have lost some potency, but not enough to require revaccination.

"These were doses shipped in October, and at the time, there was tremendous demand, far more than the supply, so the vaccine was used very quickly," she said. "We know from reports coming in from local health departments that those lots were administered long ago. The potency now is diminishing, but when it was administered in October they were at full strength."

The loss of potency was discovered last week during routine tests and the recall was a precautionary measure.

Phillips said there still is demand for the vaccine, largely from seniors who were not in priority groups including pregnant women, children, health care workers and those with chronic conditions.

State officials are now making other doses of the vaccine available to grocery, big-box and drug store stores and recommend everyone get one. Go to flu.mary land.gov to find a location.


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