Boynton short on flu vaccine, students sent elsewhere for shots

by Mickie Barg

As flu season approaches, vaccine shortages have kept the University from getting its flu shots. And officials at Boynton are getting sick of waiting.
David Golden, Boynton community programs specialist, said the first shipment of about 1,000 doses had originally been expected in October. Now, he said, it might not arrive until the end of November.
Boynton officials had planned “The Immunization Tour 2000,” a series of walk-in vaccinations at Boynton and mobile clinics. This series of clinics would tour the residence halls, the Academic Health Center and anywhere food is served. Its commencement was scheduled to immediately follow Thanksgiving break, but will now have to be rescheduled for December, Golden said.
That could be too late for many people at the University. Patients must receive the flu vaccine at least two weeks prior to possible flu exposure for immunity to take effect, Golden said.
“The flu season peaks in February, but is sometimes seen as early as December and January,” he said.
The delay originated at Wyeth Ayerst, a pharmaceutical company contracted by the University to produce a vaccine for the A/Panama flu strain.
“There was a difficulty growing the A/Panama strain which led to a delay,” said Natalie DeVane, spokeswoman for Wyeth Ayerst. “The A/New Caledonia and B/Yamanashi strain were also not in last year’s vaccine.”
The University was not the only institution affected by the shortage. DeVane said the vaccine will be shipped in batches through November and December with the first shipments going to long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
Boynton signed a contract with Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories in April in an agreement promising on-time shipments of the flu vaccines.
“We made a commitment with them that they haven’t been able to keep for one reason or another,” said Steven Cain, Boynton pharmacy supervisor. “In fact, we were told we would be given priority.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, high-risk people should receive vaccines first. This includes the elderly and people with chronic and circulatory conditions, asthma and diabetes. Teenagers receiving ongoing medical treatment with aspirin are also considered high-risk.
Golden said the University has many students falling into these categories. In addition, the close living conditions in the dorms pose a risk for a flu epidemic, he said.
“We would recommend that high-risk patients go to another provider or to Cub Foods or Walgreens,” Golden said. “They have shots now.”
The first shipment in November will be enough to immunize elderly patients and staff who are exposed to the high-risk patients, Cain said.

Mickie Barg covers the medical school and welcomes comments at [email protected]