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The flu: questions and answers


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  • Chief Cushie

Date: October 28, 2004

For Release: Immediately

Contact: HHS Press Office

(202) 690-6343




Department Takes Steps To Acquire Foreign Vaccine, Redirect Government Doses


HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced today significant progress toward expanding the nation's supply of vaccines for flu season: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified about 5 million doses of influenza vaccine from foreign manufacturers; HHS has been able to recoup an additional 300,000 doses of the injectable vaccine originally bought for federal employees and the military; and a major pneumonia vaccine manufacturer plans to triple its production.


Secretary Thompson said these medicines would add to the nation's growing supply of vaccines and medicines to protect Americans during the coming flu season. These new doses would add to the 61 million doses of vaccine already available, including 58 million doses of vaccine from Aventis and 3 million of FluMist nasal spray from MedImmune. Additionally, the nation has a supply of antiviral medicines, potentially enough for more than 40 million people that can be used to prevent or treat the flu.


With the news of additional supply, the Secretary stressed again that millions of influenza vaccine doses are still to be distributed to states this flu season. Specifically, about 17 million of the Aventis vaccine is still to come (about 3 million doses a week are being distributed), as well as 2 million doses of FluMist.


"We're continuing to build our arsenal of vaccines and medicines to confront the coming flu season," Secretary Thompson said. "We are encouraged about the potential for some 5 million doses of vaccine from foreign manufacturers and we're sending our inspectors to those facilities. We're redirecting vaccine originally purchased by the government for federal employees and the military to priority populations throughout the country.


"We're growing stronger each week in our supply of vaccines and medicines, which makes us optimistic about our ability to protect the American public as we go into flu season," he added.


Secretary Thompson said FDA inspectors would be traveling to two foreign manufacturing facilities -- GlaxoSmithKline's facility in Germany and IDBiomedical's facility in Canada -- to inspect their manufacturing plants and products. The inspection teams will confirm the availability of the 5 million doses, assure that the vaccine can be used safely, and then make arrangements to acquire them. The department is still exploring the potential of additional doses of vaccine from other foreign sources as well.


The vaccine from foreign manufacturers would be distributed according to greatest need at the time of acquisition this flu season. These doses would most likely have to be distributed as an investigational new drug (IND), requiring recipients to sign a consent form and follow-up with a health care worker.


Additionally, the department has recouped about 300,000 doses of influenza vaccine that had been purchased by the federal government for federal employees and the military this flu season.


This includes 200,000 doses of vaccine purchased originally for the military, which will now use FluMist thus freeing up the injectable vaccine for the priority populations who cannot take FluMist. This shift will not affect the timing or supply of vaccine for members of the military who are eligible to receive the flu vaccine. Additionally, HHS has recouped nearly 100,000 doses from the Federal Occupational Health service. All of these doses will now be redirected to states based on need for their priority populations.


Secretary Thompson also announced that Merck & Co. is tripling its production of pneumococcal vaccine used to prevent one of the major complications of the flu, pneumonia. The company, which typically sells 6 million to 7 million doses of Pneumovax 23, will increase its production to between 17 and 18 million for this flu season. The vaccine is for adults and children ages 2 years and older who are at increased risk for pneumonia.


Pneumovax is not a substitute for the influenza vaccine, but can help shield people against flu complications. A single dose can protect against 23 different types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that are responsible for causing more than 90 percent of pneumonia cases. Many people who fall into the priority groups for the influenza vaccine should also get the pneumonia vaccine, including seniors.


Secretary Thompson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making flu vaccine data available for state health commissioners on a secure Web site to help them track supplies coming to their states. He noted that the data is proprietary information that Aventis asked be protected through the secure Web site. The Web site is the result of efforts by the CDC and Aventis to redirect undistributed vaccine to places of greatest need.


The CDC also has asked states to submit their high-risk needs that are not being met as soon as possible, so that this information can be used to distribute remaining doses to where they are most needed.


Furthermore, the Secretary wants states to be clear that vaccines and medicines will be covered through Medicaid and Medicare for the populations those programs serve. This includes children in Medicaid and seniors in Medicare. In fact, Medicare will reimburse seniors who received their vaccine from a provider who is not enrolled in Medicare, and it will cover the costs of antiviral medicines that can prevent or treat the flu.


Secretary Thompson thanked the American public for its cooperation in making sure the flu vaccine goes to those in priority groups. He reminded the public that the priority groups for influenza vaccination are all children aged 6 months to 23 months; adults aged 65 and older; persons aged 2 to 64 with underlying chronic conditions; all women who will be pregnant during influenza season; residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities; children aged 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy.


"On behalf of the President, I want to extend the administration's appreciation to citizens across America, who in accordance with CDC guidelines, are forgoing the flu shot so that someone in a priority category can get one," Secretary Thompson said. "Working together, we can make sure that the vaccine doses go to those who are most vulnerable."

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I am going to the doctors this afternoon, she had called me in last week cough medicine with codine, but made me sick.

This is been going on for about 2 weeks now and getting worse, just thought I could fight it being the whole family was sick.

I dont have a fever, I have a very bad cough, alot of weezing, Im having such a hard time coughing because it feels like my ribs r broke, or something is sticking in my side, under my chest and around my side, it is so sore I can hardly stand it.

It really is scaring me, My ear hurts, my glads in my neck are swelled, and sore, my chest hurts, and am getting light headed, not sure if that is my HBP.

I did have a sinue and ear infection a month ago, and was put on antibotics, I dont know if it didnt clear it or what.

It hurts really back to breath with the side like this, do u think its a musle, something with what is going on, I know I will find something out today, but not to say im not scared.

Seems everytime I get sick, I cant fight it off. Do you think this is the flu, or pneuomia. I do have the chills, but no fever, which is commom for me.

But im not diagnosed with Cushings, the endo says nom unsulin resistant, but being she wont test me any more , she is gone. Alos wont treat me for insulin resistant.

I just want to get better, and whatever is hurting so bad on my side, and around my back to feel better, that way I might be able to cough, Im just going around holding onto my side.

Thank you

Eileen :wub:

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((( EILEEN))))


You hopefully have some answers by now. If not it would seem to me that an ER visit is the best place. What you've described can be signs of flu. I hope you get some relief from this.


Love, Sheryl

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((( EILEEN))))


You hopefully have some answers by now. If not it would seem to me that an ER visit is the best place. What you've described can be signs of flu. I hope you get some relief from this.


Love, Sheryl

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  • Chief Cushie



Arkansas Receives More Flu Vaccine


By AVA THOMAS BENSON, Associated Press Writer


LITTLE ROCK - Arkansans especially at risk from the flu — but who haven't been able to get a flu shot this year because of a vaccine shortage — may get the protection they need from 80,000 more doses of the flu vaccine being sent to the state.


The additional doses will be ready for distribution by next week, state Health Department officials said Monday.


Arkansas originally received only 114,850 doses of the vaccine. Health department officials sent 48,640 to nursing homes and the remaining 66,000 to each of Arkansas 75 counties for distribution to the state's at-risk population, estimated at more than 420,000. Clinics around the state began administering the shots Wednesday, and officials said fewer than 4,000 of the original shots are left.


The state had asked the federal government for more doses of the vaccine, but did not know if it would receive the doses.


"We just couldn't believe it," health department spokeswoman Ann Wright said. "We thought we might get more vaccine, but 80,000 doses is just wonderful, great news. We're just thrilled to death."


Wright said the additional vaccines would be sent to health clinics throughout the state for distribution and that details of how the shots are administered would likely be left to individual clinics. The department still plans to restrict the shots to those in at-risk categories, she said.


"(The extra doses) are for people in the high-risk groups so they've got protection. They can really go into complications from the flu and (Arkansas receiving the extra shots) is such great news for them."


People in high risk categories include anyone 65 years of age or older, children younger than 2 years old, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.


It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after a person receives the shot and the shot's effectiveness lasts for about three months.


The supply of flu vaccines was cut nearly in half this year when British regulators stopped production at one of the two companies that provide the U.S. with its vaccines. Officials said the flu vaccines produced at the Liverpool-based Chiron Corp. had become contaminated.






Massachusetts Getting More Flu Vaccine


BOSTON - Massachusetts is getting more than 262,000 additional doses of flu vaccine, which state Public Health Commissioner Christine C. Ferguson said should be enough to vaccinate people most at risk of death or serious complications from the flu.


However she said healthy children older than 2 and healthy adults younger than 75 will not yet be able to be vaccinated.


"What we don't know at this point is how many additional doses might be available in the state over the course of the next month, month and a half, over and above the 1.2 million that we are currently counting on," Ferguson said at a news conference Monday.


Contamination concerns at a British plant wiped out nearly half the U.S. supply.

The state Department of Public Health said it will receive the additional 262,630 from Aventis Pasteur, the lone remaining maker of vaccine for the U.S. market. That brings the state agency's total to 660,000, and roughly 600,000 flu shots have been shipped directly to doctors' offices and hospitals by Aventis.

The new doses will be sent to local boards of health, doctors' offices and hospitals.


Local boards of health placed their orders based on last year's demand, which is estimated at less than half of those who were at high risk, health authorities said.


"We're trying to meet a heightened demand, because a lot of people weren't coming forward in previous years," Ferguson said.


Flu season typically peaks in January or February, and only one case in the Greater Boston area so far has been reported.


Each year, about 800 Massachusetts residents die of complications from the flu.

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Our Health Center sent out a list of people who should come in for the flu shot and I was surprised to see Cushing's listed as one of the metabolic diseases (also diabetes, and Addison's) that meet the criteria. Just got the shot this morning and feel relieved - like whoof, one less thing to worry about during the holidays.

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Got my shot on Saturday with 309 elderly folks via the board of health. It was like a buffalo stampede! Couldn't believe how people were acting. As long as you had a number, you were guaranteed a shot. For some reason, there was panic in the room.


I got there 2.5 hours early and was #37 (of 310). Hopefully, there will be a contingency plan next year so this doesn't happen again!

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