Public health officials are trying to decide what to do with thousands of leftover doses of influenza vaccine as time runs out for protection from the flu.
With only a few weeks left in the traditional peak of the flu season, the state health department has more than 25,000 doses of pediatric flu vaccine available for health care providers to order, and Maricopa County has about 5,000 unused adult doses.
The county’s vaccine backlog remains after only about 600 were administered to people age 50 and older at three clinics last Saturday, said Shawn Nau, the county’s director of health care mandates. The last day scheduled for county flu shots is Jan. 22.
"If we were having more flu activity, people might be soaking (vaccine) up right now," said Will Humble, bureau chief for disease control at the Arizona Department of Health Services. There have been 44 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases statewide.
Public perception has shifted dramatically in the last four months, from panic after federal health officials announced that the nation’s flu shot supply would be cut in half, to complacency now that vaccine is available and reported flu cases are minimal, health authorities said.
This season, some health care providers are offering vaccine later than usual because supplies became available gradually after the shortage was announced. Providers were instructed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restrict flu shots to people age 65 and older, children 6 to 23 months, those with an underlying medical condition, health care providers of direct patient care, and pregnant women.
State health officials didn’t give providers the green light to drop the minimum age to 50 until Jan. 3. The flu season typically peaks in January and February, although it has come as late as May, according to health officials. Mollen said it takes two to four weeks to build antibodies to influenza after being inoculated.
Now county officials want to drop the age limit altogether on Jan. 22 and offer the remaining 5,000 flu shots to anyone on a first-come, firstserved basis, Nau said. The county plans to meet with the state health department this week about expanding flu shot availability, he said.
What: Last day CIGNA Medical Group will give flu shots using Maricopa County’s vaccine
When: Jan. 22
Where: In the East Valley, flu shots will be provided 8 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Stapley Health Care Center, 1111 S. Stapley Drive in Mesa
Information: (602) 906-2750 or (480) 345-5355
Other clinics: For information about other flu shot clinics, call Community Information and Referral at (602) 263-8856 or visit