The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken control of the remaining 22.4 million available flu shots in the United States in an attempt to make sure only those who really need the shot get it.
The CDC has asked the vaccine’s manufacturer, Aventis US, to hold off on any further shipments of remaining supplies until the agency determines a plan to distribute the vaccine to those who most need it, said Von Roebuck, CDC spokesman.
"We are working with Aventis to ship the doses within the next six to seven weeks to those organizations who can best distribute it," Roebuck said. The CDC announced late Friday that it has requested Aventis ship 2 million doses to pediatricians, long-term care facilities, Veterans Affairs and state public health officials.
Arizona’s portion of the available flu shots and the doses "will more than likely go to the state, and the state health department will make the distribution," said Doug Hauth spokesman for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
Hauth said in a CDC briefing this week he was told the CDC was "quarantining" the remaining flu shots to ensure they went where they were needed most. Roebuck said he did not want to characterize the situation that way, but acknowledged the CDC is working with Aventis to control the remaining shots.
Health officials urge only those considered to be high risk for flu complications get a flu shot this year. Some states have threatened doctors and nurses with fines and jail if they give flu shots to low-risk people.
Arizona officials have not implemented any steps to penalize those providing flu shots to healthy people. "We haven’t had a problem so far, so we plan to handle it as we have been and urge only those who need the shot to get it," said Mary Elhert, a spokeswoman for Arizona Department of Health Services.
The CDC has updated its recommendations on who should get flu shots to people 65 and older or children 6 to 23 months old, or who have HIV/AIDS or Type I diabetes, cancer patients treated within the past year, and those suffering lung disorders, including asthma and cardiovascular disease. Type II diabetics should get shots only if they have been hospitalized or their doctor has said they need one.
"Those in doubt should contact their physician," said Stacey Paullin, spokeswoman for the American Lung Association of Arizona.
For those who don’t qualify for a flu shot this year, there are still steps they can take to avoid getting the flu, including using over-the-counter remedies, said Dr. Stephen Messer, a physician with Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center in Scottsdale.
"Anecdotal evidence sugge sts a product called Dolivaxil is helpful in avoiding the flu if taken as recommended," Messer said. For those who get the flu, Messer suggests Oscillococcinum that has shown promise in European studies to lessen the effect of the illness. Both are available at health food stores, he said.
Messer recommended healthy people take precautions now to avoid the flu.
"A good multivitamin, rest, hand-washing and enough fluids go a long way in flu prevention," he said.
"And, if you get the flu, don’t be a hero — stay home from work."
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office also is keeping an eye on the flu vaccine shortage. It recommends Arizona residents and health care providers look out for price gouging related to the flu vaccine. To report complaints, call (602) 542-5763 or visit www.azag.gov.
What: Flu Shot Clinic at Mollen Clinic, 4602 N. 16th St., Phoenix
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday for people 65 or older, children 6 to 23 months, and those with compromised immune systems or heart and lung diseases. Others will be turned away.