Squeeze is on as more request flu shots

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Though news of influenza-vaccine shortages seem to be all over the news, every day Susan Bowler turns away people seeking a shot.

"People keep walking in and wondering when the flu-shot clinics will be," said Bowler, the public health nurse manager. "Moffat County is really hurting. I don't know how we'll come out in the end."

The VNA is short 3,500 vaccinations that it ordered from Chiron Corp., which typically supplies half of the nation's influenza vaccines. The British company's license was suspended because of reports of contamination.

Local physicians and medical clinics are scrambling to help patients get a flu shot, but most of the available vaccinations are prioritized for at-risk individuals. That includes small children, seniors or residents in nursing homes and others diagnosed with chronic diseases.

Pediatrician Dr. Steven Ross of Sleeping Bear Pediatric in Steamboat Springs is offering flu vaccinations for children ages 6 months to 23 months and pregnant women. Vaccinations are available by appointment from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays at Northwest Health Specialists Center in Craig.

Ross said that his office has been inundated with patients seeking flu shots, but the influx is more than his staff can handle. On Wednesday, adults dropped in with a large group of school-age children requesting vaccinations.

"We're being squeezed from every direction," he said. "We can't have a madhouse like I had yesterday. I can't just open the floodgates."

Ross said his office has ordered an additional 1,000 vaccinations, but they haven't arrived.

Supplier Aventis Pasteur announced this week that it plans to distribute 22.4 million flu vaccines to the country's neediest areas during the flu season.

Ross said he hopes some of those supplies will trickle into local areas. "We're just trying to calm everybody down," he said.

Bowler said the VNA would notify the public when it has more vaccinations.

Until then, Bowler recommended healthy adults delay or skip getting a flu shot so health-care providers can give priority to high-risk people.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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