Boynton flu vaccine supply low

The limited supply is causing Boynton officials to reschedule free vaccination clinics.

by Ian Larson

Students eager to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza may be temporarily shut out by high demand and short supply at the University of Minnesota and across the state. Boynton Health Service officials have postponed a flu shot clinic that was scheduled for Sept. 23 due to a limited supply of the vaccine. Clinics statewide are waiting on a second round of the vaccine from manufacturers. Although the arrival date of the shipment is unknown, it will likely be in the first part of October, Boynton Health Service Director Ed Ehlinger said. Boynton had 3,000 doses of the vaccine stored and originally planned to offer flu shots every Wednesday for three weeks beginning Sept. 16 . Boynton officials estimated a weekly turnout of about 1,000 people, but the number of students and University employees who lined up Wednesday doubled their expectations. One thousand doses remain in the supply, not enough to serve another major clinic, but âÄúwe donâÄôt want to turn someone away at the site,âÄù Ehlinger said. History senior Eli Cizewski-Robinson said he wanted to be vaccinated Wednesday, but was put off by the long lines. With the delay in supply, he and other University students may have to wait even longer. âÄúI hope I donâÄôt get sick before then,âÄù Cizewski-Robinson said. âÄúIâÄôve got a lot going on, so I donâÄôt want to miss class.âÄù About 50 percent of the vaccine supply has been shipped by the five manufacturers of flu shots in the United States, Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health said. These manufacturers, however, are trying to produce an H1N1 vaccine at the same time, which could contribute to problems with seasonal flu vaccine availability, Ehresmann said. Additionally, the B-strain âÄî one of three strains necessary for making the vaccine âÄî is growing at a slower-than-expected rate. âÄúThat slows the whole process down,âÄù Ehresmann said. About 110 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine are being produced this year, which âÄúshould be plenty,âÄù Ehresmann said. She added that about 25 percent of the supply will be shipped in October, and the other 25 percent in November. The University ordered 17,000 doses of the vaccine, which they expected in September. But the doses have been arriving late and in stages. Ehlinger said he wished the clinic would have received all the vaccinations at once. âÄúItâÄôd be nice to get this done as quickly as possible,âÄù he said. The reason for the rush is more logistical than medical. The University was hoping to vaccinate a large population before the H1N1 influenza vaccine arrived, to avoid complications with large staffing demands. Both shots may now be available at the same site and time, Ehlinger said. The seasonal flu doesnâÄôt usually hit Minnesota until late December, and if people donâÄôt get their shot until October, âÄúthat is perfectly fine,âÄù Ehresmann said. She said the encouragement from the Department of Health to vaccinate earlier was meant to âÄúrelieve the pressure on the health care system.âÄù âÄúWe still have plenty of time to get people immunized,âÄù Ehlinger said.