Questions, few answers on availability of flu vaccine
Nov. 26, 2000
This is the time of year when physicians across Mississippi encourage their high risk patients to get a flu shot. And yet, many of the people most likely to catch flu and suffer dangerous consequences can not get a shot because the vaccine is largely unavailable in the Meridian area.
Mississippi's first allocation, according to Dr. Ed Thompson, state health officer, is going to the Gulf Coast, where the bug usually bites first. That is well and good for Coastians. They need protection, too.
Coming, but when?
But officials with the state Department of Health are telling their Meridian area patients the vaccine is not available. Worse, while some private clinics have apparently managed to secure some flu vaccine, state health officials still do not know when the shortage will be alleviated in the Meridian area.
She advised people who are high risk to "avoid crowds and, at the first sign of any illness, see their physician."
So, a long list of people who can ill afford to get the flu should not go to church, shopping or anywhere else they might encounter a crowd. This is probably sensible advice, but it does not resolve the underlying problem.
In the case of flu shots, the "when" is everything.
State and federal public health officials learned in June that manufacturers anticipated a delay in shipping the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta says it will guarantee production of up to nine million additional doses of vaccine to make up for the shortfalls in production.
We don't pretend to understand the means by which flu vaccine is allocated in Mississippi, how it gets here or who decides where it goes first. We do understand guarantees and good intentions will prove of little value if even one high risk person suffers unnecessarily.
Some real answers are in order.