As the wait for the swine flu vaccine continues, a temporary shortage of seasonal flu vaccine has health officials urging calm and patience.
The shortage is linked to "a few wrinkles" in the process of manufacturing and shipping vaccines for both seasonal flu and swine flu, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some doctors' offices in the Midlands reported having seasonal flu vaccine available Monday, but other private physicians and pharmacies said they have run out. All expect more shipments of the seasonal flu vaccine, though they might not come for a week or two.
University Specialty Clinics, part of the Palmetto Health system, was out of adult vaccine and had some children's doses Monday, said Donna Cook, nurse manager.
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The Palmetto Health system still has vaccine, but it is reserving most of its stockpile for hospital patients, said spokeswoman Tammie Epps.
Health officials pushed for early vaccinations for seasonal flu this year to give health professionals more time to administer swine flu vaccines in November and December. People apparently listened. Doctors' offices and pharmacies already have given out nearly as many seasonal flu shots as during the entire previous flu season.
"Lots of people are getting shots," Cook said. "Usually the vaccines don't even start this early."
The shortages are due in part to shipping-pipeline problems, with the limited number of companies that usually produce one vaccine now producing two and trying to get both out early, health officials said. As of last week, 77 million of the projected 114 million seasonal flu vaccine doses had been delivered, according to the CDC.
"We know that some providers, some communities, some health departments don't have as much (seasonal) vaccine (as) they ordered," Schuchat said during a CDC news conference last week. "We ask for people's patience. ... I think there's time to get the seasonal vaccine, and more will be coming out regularly."
If you plan to get a seasonal flu shot, don't just show up at your health provider. Call ahead to make sure they have the vaccine.
For the sake of immediate health, there's no urgency to get seasonal flu vaccines because the vast majority of the influenza circulating in the United States now is the H1N1 strain.
People at high risk of serious flu problems - pregnant women, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease - should hustle to get H1N1 flu shots as soon as they are available. The first shipment of 25,500 doses of the H1N1 nasal mist vaccine began arriving in South Carolina last week. Those will go almost exclusively to health-care workers.
There may be lines at clinics and pharmacies when the swine flu vaccine is available to the public. But people shouldn't even consider waiting in line for the seasonal flu vaccine. More is coming, and there's plenty of time.
In South Carolina, seasonal flu usually begins to show up in December or January and reaches a peak in February or March.