Univ. faces flu shot shortage

In response to a national shortage of the influenza virus vaccine, Yale University Health Services has requested that members of the community who are not at high risk for the flu — a group that includes most Yale students — forgo vaccination this year— .

Officials at UHS said free Wednesday and Thursday vaccination clinics for members of the Yale community will probably begin the first week in November after doctors and administrators decide on an exact order of priority for who should receive the vaccine first. In recent years, on-campus flu clinics have begun at the end of October, but the fear of a shortage has prompted a later opening this year, they said.

UHS Director Dr. Paul Genecin said the University anticipates having enough doses of the vaccine to cover everyone who wants one but will closely follow priority recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, those most at risk for influenza are children under two years old, adults over 65, and children and adults with chronic medical conditions including diabetes or asthma. Genecin said compliance with the CDC is a precaution and should not alarm students, faculty and staff.

“I think we’ll be fine, and I think we’ll have plenty of flu vaccine for everybody,” Genecin said. “Most people [at the University] are healthy and are asked to forego the vaccination this year.”

According to Genecin, UHS accommodated all 12,000 people who requested a flu vaccine during last year’s epidemic season. Students seeking vaccinations early this flu season may be turned away to ensure all prioritized patients are treated, Genecin said.

This year’s shortage comes after the British government temporarily suspended U.S.-based flu vaccine supplier Chiron Corp.’s license to manufacture doses in its Liverpool facility. The shutdown prevented the release of any doses to the United States, where Chiron is one of the main vaccine suppliers.

Chiron officials said the company’s suspension, which came after government authorities found possible contamination, will prevent it from producing vaccine doses for the rest of the flu season which typically lasts from November to March.

“Chiron deeply regrets that we will be unable to meet public health needs this season,” the company said in a statement posted Tuesday on its Web site. “We are committed to taking all necessary actions to ensure an adequate vaccine supply for the [next year].”

Although UHS receives its vaccine doses directly from Chiron competitor Avantis Corp., Genecin said UHS will carefully follow the government’s guidelines in administering vaccines because they may be required to share their doses with Yale-New Haven Hospital and other clinics in the New Haven community.

Yale-New Haven Hospital did not return several phone calls throughout the day.

Genecin said life on campus makes students especially susceptible to germs. He urged students to wash hands and to seek medical attention as soon as they feel ill.

“It’s unavoidable that we are exposed in rooms, classrooms and dining halls with people who sneeze and cough,” Genecin said. “We want to see students with fevers and respiratory problems early on.”

Nathan Reiff ’07 said he thinks understands why UHS must prioritize the flu vaccinations this year. But in the future, he said, UHS should ensure it has enough of the vaccine to cover students.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they don’t have enough flu vaccinations to go around,” Reiff said. “I feel it is the responsibility of [UHS] to make sure they are always able to provide services to the students here.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Yale Undergraduate Health Services has preemptively decided to ration flu vaccines to ensure patients that are most at-risk receive the vaccination.
Jonathan Ferrugia
Yale Undergraduate Health Services has preemptively decided to ration flu vaccines to ensure patients that are most at-risk receive the vaccination.

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