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Preventive MedicinePrimary Care

Yet More on Seasonal Flu Shots

By October 6, 2009No Comments

Many patients are concerned that we are now out of vaccine for this year’s seasonal flu (as of the start of October). Our supplies will be replenished in November and should allow us to complete immunizing every Orchard Health Care member who should have or who wants to have influenza vaccine protection next month.

Getting immunized in November or even early December is plenty early for the normal seasonal flu, which does not begin to be prevalent till late December.  So no one need worry about the immunization hiatus in October.

What Happened?

We ordered more than enough vaccine for all our members last year for delivery early this fall. Much of our order arrived about Labor Day and we began immunizing patients as they came for fall office visits or called to come by just for the flu shots. This approach has provided maximum convenience and effectiveness for a number of years, insuring that everyone got immunized in a timely fashion without having to sign up for specific “flu clinics” or such.

Then the Federal government directed all the vaccine manufacturers to cease production of seasonal flu vaccine and switch to H1N1 vaccine to respond to the urgent public health situation with the “swine” flu that is circulating. This reasonable decision resulted in a delay in the distribution of the full remaining order of seasonal flu vaccine to our practice and to most practices in the Commonwealth. We are told that the remainder of the ordered seasonal flu vaccine will arrive in early or mid-November. That is the current best information we have or are likely to get.

What to Do?

There is no emergency about seasonal flu. Anyone who has had the vaccine in recent years has at least partial immunity, since the influenza virus evolves slowly and there is overlapping immunity conferred by prior year vaccines. We expect to get sufficient vaccine to finish immunizing our members sometime next month, which is biologically in plenty of time for the normal onset of seasonal influenza in mid- to late December. Moreover, antibiotics including Tamiflu have reasonable effectiveness, and we have and use diagnostic kits that pretty accurately identify true influenza as distinct from other winter respiratory illnesses. So we are clearly prepared.

Alternative Sources of Fluvax

If you have ready access to a clinic or pharmacy or other source of influenza vaccine, it would be an entirely reasonable course to avail yourself of that option over the next few weeks. The same vaccine manufacturers supply everyone, so the quality of the vaccine does not vary. We expect the remainder of our supply next month and should be able to offer it to everyone in the practice who has not yet received it. But a bird in hand and so forth does apply. We have assurances but not guarantees that the remaining vaccine order will arrive. So do avail yourself of vaccine from other sources that you find.

Summary and Reassurance

Regardless, do not get upset or panic. It is overwhelmingly likely that your individual need for protection against seasonal flu will be met, and we have fairly robust diagnostic and treatment tools that we use. Please look to this website for updates over the next several weeks, or call the office or email late this month to request updated information.

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