Flu Vaccine Shortage Hits Region 8

October 7, 2004 -- Posted at 8:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-- If you are a healthy adult under the age of 65, you may have a hard time getting a flu shot this year. The Arkansas Department of Health is saying this year's vaccines will go to a selected group first.

The new regulations came a day after the nation's flu vaccine supply was cut in half. United States medical personnel had expected a record 100 million doses of flu vaccine but, they're not going to get it. In fact they'll barley get half of what was expected. British regulators suddenly shut down a major flu-shot supplier after they produced a contaminated batch of vaccine. The U.S. was supposed to get 46 million doses from the company. Effects of the bad batch are being felt right here in Region 8.

"In Jonesboro, it means that about half of the influenza vaccine we anticipated for this influenza season may not show up," said Dr. Tom Frank of St. Benards Medical Center.

The Centers for Disease Control are asking healthy adults to be good citizens. Healthy adults are being asked to forego the vaccine this year. That way the vaccine can be saved for those who need it most.

"Patients who have chronic health conditions where they would not be able to tolerate the heath impact of influenza are the patients get the first spot in line for the shot," said Dr. Frank.

Babies between the ages of 6-23 months and people over the age of 65 fall into the high risk category. Those in that fall into that category should be able to get the vaccine from the family doctor.

Dr. Frank says if you can't get a shot right now don't panic. He says it's better to get immunized in November anyway. If you get a shot now, the vaccine may not last through a late flu season.

Medical personnel say you'd be surprised how much sickness you can avoid by simply washing your hands.