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CNN Today

Flu Vaccinations Will Be Delayed This Season

Aired September 29, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The government says flu vaccine will be available to everyone who wants it, but you may have to wait a little longer to receive your shot.

CNN medical correspondent Holly Firfer explains the delay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a year ago this Sunday, October 1, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone get their flu vaccinations.

This year, it's a whole different story.

DR. WALT ORENSTEIN, CDC: The supply is coming in later than usual so that, normally we vaccinate between October and mid-November -- this year we will need to be vaccinating into December and maybe even into January.

FIRFER: Flu vaccine manufacturers expect to ship 27 million doses of the vaccine to health care facilities by the end of October, when the first few signs of flu are generally seen.

That will cover about 80 percent of the high-risk group that actually get flu vaccines each year. Those considered highest risk of developing serious complications from the flu are those with chronic illnesses, the elderly -- 65 and older -- and pregnant women.

Although it can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to work, health officials say the incidence of flu is usually sporadic in October. Thirty million more doses will be available by the end of November, which would be enough to cover the remaining high-risk people who want to get vaccinated.

As for healthy people who want the vaccine, the CDC has asked public health care facilities to delay their mass vaccination campaigns until November or December. They add that's not too late to be protected from the height to the end of the flu season.

ORENSTEIN: For most flu seasons, getting vaccinated in December should be adequate to protect. Generally, the flu season peaks between January and March.

FIRFER: The delay, say manufacturers, is due in part to one strain in the vaccine that has been slow to grow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Well, basically, with the delay in the vaccine going out to the manufacturers -- they're late on orders -- the CDC has created a Web site that health facilities can go to in order to see who's got more vaccine and who might be willing to give up some of their supplies.

So if you have an area where a lot of people need to get vaccinated and not enough doses, you could go on that Web site and check out to see if someone might have some extra they don't need at the moment. They might share with you and you would return the favor later on -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And tell us more, Holly, about what caused this delay?

FIRFER: Well, basically, they track the flu vaccine every year. It doesn't just happen in the winter.

We think, you know, flu hits around November to March; but, actually, the flu is in other places in the world popping up, and so they watch that. And the flu will mutate a little bit to try to outsmart our drugs, so every year they have to create new strains for the vaccine, and this year one particular strain was a little bit harder to grow than usual and that caused some problems and, sort of, you know, put them on a delay basis.

So they're hoping that, now that they've got it, they can get it into production and we should have it a little late, but it should still be safe for everybody to take.

ALLEN: Because, again, the height of flu season is actually the beginning of next year, right?

FIRFER: Yes.

ALLEN: OK, thanks Holly.

Well, as always, for more health news, you can click on to our Web site, cnn.com, it's produced with WebMD.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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