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Flu vaccine available; distribution may be slow.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Lynn East, office manager of Veneta Medical Clinic, ordered 600 doses of flu vaccine last winter, even going through a more expensive supplier in hopes of actually receiving the medicine this fall.

She's still waiting for vaccine to arrive, and she's not holding her breath. Instead, the small-town clinic has begun referring patients to supermarket pharmacies that offer flu shots to the public.

`We're the main family medicine practice out here, and (patients) rely on us,' she said. "This is the second year in a row we've not been able to come through because of a lack of supply."

Flu vaccine is available this fall, but getting it distributed is proving a challenge for public health officials, smaller medical clinics and nursing homes.

"I think there's plenty of vaccine nationwide," said Pat Dotson, senior stores clerk for Lane County Public Health. "It's just a matter of getting it where it needs to go."

State public health officials said Monday that they're working with county health departments to redistribute vaccine to local providers who have short supplies and to areas of the state that have experienced delays.

Lane County is not among the counties experiencing what the state is calling "significant shortages," but some clinics and nursing homes in the county have gone wanting, Dotson said.

The agency conducted its last public flu shot clinic Monday at Wheeler Pavilion in Eugene, and expects to have about 1,600 doses left out of the 5,000 shots it received this year, he said.

Dotson said he has talked to nearly 20 clinics and health facilities that are looking for vaccine, and starting today will begin selling surplus doses at cost. Vaccine will go first to facilities serving high-risk populations, he said.

"We'll try to fulfill what we can with our vaccine," he said. "The rest we'll broker through the state."

State public health officials are asking health providers to vaccinate high-priority groups first. Those include: children ages 6 months to 32 months; adults ages 65 and older; residents of nursing homes and other long-term facilities; anyone ages 2 to 64 with underlying medical conditions; pregnant women; health care workers providing direct patient care; and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children 6 months old and younger.

The state recommends that healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49 who want vaccine to ask for FluMistTM, a live attenuated influenza vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. That would make more vaccine available to people who require a flu shot made with inactivated virus, said Dr. Susan Allan, state public health officer.

To date, 655,000 doses of vaccine have been shipped to Oregon, about 9 percent more than the 600,000 doses shipped all of last flu season. But eight Oregon counties - Benton, Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Lynn, Malheur, Union and Wheeler - are short of vaccine.

Nationwide, about 71 million doses have been distributed, with another 10 million to 12 million expected to be shipped by the end of the month.

Influenza already has hit in Oregon, but so far flu activity seems limited, said Amanda Timmons, public health educator in the state's immunization program. Just five cases have been confirmed in the lab so far.

Flu season lasts into March, and there's still plenty of time to be vaccinated, she said.

FLU SHOTS

Search for flu clinics on the Lung Association of Oregon Web site at www.lungoregon.org

Or call Oregon SafeNet at (800) SAFENET (723-3638)
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Title Annotation:Health; Lane is not among the counties with `significant shortages,' but some local health providers say they have gone wanting
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 22, 2005
Words:582
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