Vaccines in full supply as the flu season begins

Headaches may not result merely from stress this time of year. With cooler weather descending upon campus, a new round of the flu may make student lives more troublesome. Now, headaches could signal an attack more damaging to college life than pressure from schoolwork.

Last year?s flu season provided a glimpse into the effects of medical errors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered that the Chiron Corporation in Liverpool, which was to supply more than half the U.S.?s doses of the flu vaccine, almost sent contaminated doses across the Atlantic. The results of the FDA?s inspections soon made medical clinics across the U.S. realize that a huge shortage of the vaccine would ensue.

As the U.S. uses tens of millions of vaccinations yearly, this presented an enormous problem to distributors of the medicine. Clinics began providing the shot to only those with a high chance of catching the virus, and millions of Americans had to weather the winter without protection. In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that about 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu complications yearly in the U.S.

However, the CDC reports no major shortages this year, and the FDA has thoroughly inspected the Chiron Corporation for contamination in its supply of vaccines. With an estimated demand of 60 million vaccines, doctors around the country plan to give priority to those patients they deem most at risk. The CDC has recommended that doctors follow such a plan and allow the general population to be vaccinated after October 24. In an e-mail to Morewood Gardens residents, housefellow Brian Curfman expressed the need to allow those more susceptible to the disease first chance at the vaccine.

At Carnegie Mellon, students will have easy access to the vaccine. Diane Dawson, a registered nurse at CMU Health Services, said that a shortage was not expected. ?In fact, I?m surprised that we?re on any waiting list at all for vaccinations,? she said. She added that at the November 2 Health Fair students can purchase a vaccination; Health Services ?is expecting hundreds of doses.?

Flu prevention has concerned many, and in recent weeks the standard flood of warnings about clean hands and work areas has shown up in fliers and recently pointed out that preschools and kindergarten classes could harbor the virus. Young children, as they are more vulnerable to the flu, could aid the virus? expansion. The Children?s School in Morewood Gardens is also preparing for possible flu cases. Erlina Mae Bowers of the Children?s School said that she and her staff make sure that their students take preventative measures and keep the flu at bay as much as they can; a few have missed classes already due to flu-related symptoms. ?I don?t believe being around children makes anyone more vulnerable,? she stressed, ?but we?re always cautious. Everyone should be. You can get the flu anywhere.?

Dawson noted that in the coming weeks Health Services will begin posting dates and times when students can receive flu vaccinations on public bulletin boards and in a number of student publications.