Flu Vaccine Becoming Hot Item

Reporter: Shannon Samson

The Centers for Disease Control wasn't expecting a shortage of the flu vaccine this year and have been telling us just that for months now.

And yet, there were still problems with distribution which led to the long lines we saw last year and the year before. Will this go on forever? the CDC says there is a solution in sight.

Between the sounds of numbers being called, 89-year-old Lane Anderson recites poems he wrote to pass the time for himself and the folks in line. Rosemary Givens observed, "Well I think it's pretty long. I didn't want to have to wait this long."

Health officials had expected to give the shots much sooner in the season. Nursing Division supervisor Diana Simpson says, "We had ordered from the company that was not able to deliver last year and from what we know, they started production and everything was going to go OK and there was a problem. So, a lot of us whose order was coming from there did not get ours."

The CDC says that company, Chiron, just didn't get out the vaccine as quickly as anyone would have liked. Still, federal health officials predict this year Americans may very well exceed their previous record of receiving 83-million doses.... Some of them a little later than planned.

Marian Dalby was waiting in line Wednesday as well. "I think they should make more available, for more areas, doctors and such. My doctor hasn't had any in two years."

So how many more years will folks have to deal with the vaccine shortages and long lines? Well, there are efforts underway to shore up more of the vaccine, but right now it's really hard to say." Simpson says, "We order as soon as we can. We have no control over who gets vaccine."

Last month, President Bush announced a budget proposal for $7 million to modernize technology to battle pandemic influenza. CDC officials say faster vaccine production will end up solving the seasonal flu problem too.

Until then, it's better late than never for the shots. Given in December and even January, the vaccine will protect its recipients all the way to end of flu season in April. The state provided Vanderburgh County with 500 doses and Alcoa donated another 150. By the end of the day, almost all of them were gone.

So the health department doesn't have enough to hold another clinic. But they do have some set aside for kids, especially those age 6 to 23 months, which is a high risk group. And the shots are free.

The good news is that this area has so far seen only low flu activity this year. The CDC reports no activity in Illinois and Kentucky.