Flu vaccine slowly begins to trickle in


Herald Writer

Although problems with manufacturing this year’s flu vaccine caused significant delays in annual events where the shots are available, some area health care organizations are now beginning to administer the shots.

At The Everett Clinic, about 2,500 people have scheduled their flu shots in the three-week block set aside for getting the vaccine, which ends Nov. 22.

"I don’t feel that they’re panicked that there’s a shortage," said Bonnie Neff, the clinic’s staffing and education manager. "The people who thought they needed a vaccination are getting it."

All 17,000 doses the organization ordered showed up on time, making it one of the few organizations in the county to receive its doses without delay.

In fact, it is loaning 1,000 doses to the Snohomish Health District to get its program running, Neff said.

Although the vaccine was purchased for patients of The Everett Clinic, the public may set up an appointment, she added. The charge is $10.

Visiting Nurse Services of the Northwest and the Snohomish Health District both have announced their adjusted schedules for offering the shots at stores, nursing homes and other facilities.

The shots are especially recommended for those who could develop serious illness if they catch the flu, such as anyone 65 years old or older, those with chronic heart, lung, kidney, or metabolic disease, and women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, said Dr. M. Ward Hinds, who heads the Snohomish Health District.

In March 1999, a flu outbreak killed seven residents of a Lynnwood nursing home. About 100 people in Snohomish County die each year of the flu or its complications, such as pneumonia.

This year, federal health officials for the first time lowered the age group it recommends flu shots for. Now they recommend it for anyone age 50 and older.

The shot is also suggested for adults who simply wish to avoid the illness or who can’t miss work.

Studies have shown that the shots help reduce colds, cut the number of doctors visits, lower absenteeism and save employee medical costs.

Production problems caused significant delays or cancellation of other annual flu shot events.

Monroe’s Valley General Hospital delayed its annual health screening until Dec. 9 because of the shipping problems.

"It’s usually the last week in October," spokeswoman Martha Dankers said.

"It’s real important that people don’t think that December is too late" to get a flu shot, she said. The flu is still around in February and March, she added, noting that the shot’s maximum protection is three months.

One of the area’s most popular promotions, where flu shots are offered in an upstairs conference room of a gas station near the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, has been set back six weeks.

Even though it’s now tentatively scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, Stevens Hospital officials said they still can’t confirm the event will go off as planned because of vaccine shipment problems.

Another popular annual event, the hospital’s Sunday brunch at which the shot is administered, has been canceled because of uncertainties in when vaccine shipments will arrive.

The shots are also available at other area physician offices. But call ahead to ensure that the vaccine has arrived.

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