by Mary Rains
Mille Lacs Health System
Flu shots may be a bit confusing this year. That’s because there are several different kinds of flu vaccines, and there have been delays with all seven of the manufacturers of flu vaccine, to the tune of 10 million doses, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website.
Mille Lacs Health System was counting on receiving its supply early, as the facility usually does. Earlier this year, the medical staff initally decided the quadrivalent vaccine would be the best choice for patients.
The standard trivalent vaccine protects against three strains of influenza. The quadrivalent vaccine, however, protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
Mo Hassan, pharmacist at MLHS, says the quadrivalent vaccine was a better option, because it offered a broader range of protection.
That should have posed no problem, except that companies which manufacture the vaccine are so far behind in their shipments. Trivalent vaccines are more plentiful, but the quadrivalent vaccines are taking their time getting to many hospitals, clinics and facilities nationwide.
According to the CDC, some companies have communicated information to their customers about delays in shipments that had originally been anticipated for August and September. Despite these early season shipping delays, however, manufacturers anticipate the majority of their flu vaccine distribution for the trivalent vaccine will occur by the end of October.
Dr. David Strobel, family practice physician at MLHS, says, “While this is slightly later than vaccine was shipped last year, it is not an unusual pattern for seasonal flu vaccine distribution overall.” And, he added, if peak flu season is in January and the vaccine’s greatest effectiveness occurs within 90 days, getting your flu shot in November is acceptable.
However, because the delay of the quadrivalent flu shot extends till late November, MLHS will have the standard trivalent flu vaccine available by this week.
“If you fall into the appropriate categories of ages 2-49 without underlying lung disease, you should consider the nasal spray flu vaccine,” Cathy Donovan, MLHS family practice physician, said. “For children ages 2-8 this is the recommended method of the flu immunization. These should be available in the next few weeks also. If you chose to wait for a quadrivalent vaccine you cannot get a trivalent.”
The trivalent vaccine is the tried-and-true vaccine that has been used for many years and provides necessary protection.
MLHS will not be providing any quadrivalent vaccine this year because of the distribution issue.
The elderly are always especially at risk during flu season. Donovan stresses that the most important method to protect the elderly is for younger people around them, especially children, to be immunized.
MLHS will be holding flu shot clinics beginning Tues., Oct 21.