Federal government contends with flu vaccine shortages

Tom Frieden

Senior officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a telebriefing on Friday about the flu season, vaccine effectiveness and possible vaccine shortages.

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden and Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Peggy Hamburg were on hand to answer questions related to the flu season. During the telebriefing, Frieden commented on the reports of vaccine shortages in various parts of the country.

“First though, let me mention supply of vaccine,” Frieden said. “We continue to hear reports of spot shortages of vaccine. Some people haven’t been able to find vaccine and I understand that they’re frustrated. Some providers haven’t been able to get vaccine for their patients and they’re also frustrated and that’s understandable. I’d like to give you an update about what we know about supply and what providers and patients can do to get vaccinated.”

Frieden said that approximately 129 million doses of flu vaccines were distributed as of last week. With an original projection of 135 million doses of flu vaccine available and the ability of the manufacturers to produce as many as 145 million doses, providers may continue to order vaccines if needed.

Hamburg said that the FDA is working with Genentech, the manufacturer of the antiviral Tamiflu, to increase supply and prevent temporary shortages of the drug. While the vaccine is important for prevention of flu, Tamiflu is a helpful medication for people already suffering from the illness.

“To assure that people have access to medication to treat the flu and its symptoms, we took the necessary steps to allow Genentech to distribute its reserve Tamiflu capsules without requiring them to repackage it as repackaging would take many weeks which is time we simply don’t have this flu season,” Hamburg said.

Frieden said that the country is approximately halfway through flu season but that there is still time to vaccinate against the disease.

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