Health services warns of severe shortage of flu shots
Health Services has only 330 flu vaccines this year to innoculate students and faculty members who are in the high-risk category, as well as all campus police officers.
Aventis, the company from which Carnegie Mellon University purchases its vaccines, assured Health Services that it would receive all 1300 flu shots it ordered last spring, even after the presence of a shortage came to light. On October 18, Aventis informed Health Services that it would redirect some of the vaccines previously allotted to CMU.
Biotech company Chiron was to provide around 48 million doses of the vaccine Fluvirin to U.S. health care providers. In a statement issued October 15 the FDA announced that ?None of the influenza vaccine manufactured by the Chiron Corporation for the U.S. market is safe for use.? Chiron vaccines would have accounted for about half of the U.S. supply.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that UPMC Health Systems ordered 145,000 flu shots from Chiron; the health care group is left with 5000 it ordered from Aventis.
Allegheny County has received a total of 15,600 shots, the last of which were administered last Tuesday, leaving thousands of people in the high-risk population, among them children and senior citizens, unprotected.
Heath Services had already received and administered 300 flu shots when the possibility of a shortage became known. Altogether, the community is 670 doses short of what it expected.
Healthy students and faculty need not overly concern themselves about the flu, according to Director of Heath Services Anita Barkin.
?People have been so anxiety-ridden since the government announced the shortage,? said Barkin. ?We want to reassure people in the low-risk category that while the flu is an inconvenience ... healthy people recover.?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is advertising, ?Be a germ stopper.? The CDC?s flu-prevention website (www.cdc.gov/germstopper) makes a number of suggestions: cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough; wash your hands frequently; use the pump hand-sanitizers available in clusters before and after using a computer; avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching environmental surfaces such as keyboards, doorknobs, and telephones; and wipe such surfaces with a cleaning solution regularly.
Medication such as Tamiflu, available from Health Services, can lessen the severity of illness if a patient seeks treatment within 24?48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Any students experiencing the sudden onset of a fever greater than 100 degrees with accompanying cough, sore throat, or body aches should contact Health Services or their health care providers. Students can get disposable thermometers from their resident assistant or from Heath Services.
Students who become ill should stay at home to avoid spreading the virus, says Barkin, who is confident that professors will be accommodating. Also, to prevent students from infecting their roommates, Health Services may prescribe Tamiflu to healthy students as a preventative measure.
Barkin says Health Services will stay in contact with U.S. regulators and with Aventis in hopes that more vaccines will become available.