Flu shot shortage
will not hurt isles

As two makers of flu shots in the United States announced their supply had run out, a top Hawaii health official said yesterday that the state's 1.2 million residents need not worry about whether there is enough of the vaccine to go around here.

Without providing specific numbers, Dr. Linda Rosen said the state's supply is sufficient to handle the normal number of vaccination requests and any expected increase stemming from concerns over an outbreak on the mainland.

"It would be typical, at this time of year, for the vaccine to all be distributed out to the states, to the doctors' offices and things like that," said Rosen, the state's deputy health director. "At this time we don't have a shortage here."

Rosen said the department is in constant contact with suppliers, though she had no estimate on the exact number of doses on hand in the islands.

The news comes as Chiron and Aventis Pasteur announced that they had run out of the 80 million doses of flu vaccine prepared for this season and would be unable to meet a surge in demand triggered by reports of a widespread flu outbreak in 13 states.

The companies said they cannot make more for this year because the process takes four months -- by then flu season would be over.

Rosen also did not have figures on exactly how many Hawaii residents had been vaccinated, but said anecdotal evidence indicated it was about three times higher than normal.

The increase is due partly to increased awareness but also to more insurance companies paying for the vaccinations and businesses making it easier for people to get the shots, Rosen said.

Any leftover doses would be allocated elsewhere, but Rosen said she expects health officials in other states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to meet excess demand.

The CDC said it is not unusual for supplies to run short this time of year, and it is working to locate supplies that can be sent where they are needed.

"Of course, if we had surplus we would share it, but I would guess that that's not going to be needed," Rosen said.

Meanwhile, she said the number of flu cases so far this flu season has increased recently, but is still about the same as usual this time of year.

Since Sept. 30 there have been 22 cases of the flu reported, none of which have contained the A-Fujian-H3N2 strain of the virus that has shown up in some states and caused severe outbreaks in the United States in the 1990s.

"We have seen increased activity in the last week or two which is consistent with what they're seeing on the mainland," Rosen said, noting that Hawaii's flu cases typically peak in January or February.


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