College prepares for flu vaccine shortage

The sudden suspension of Chiron Corporations, one of the largest distributors of the flu vaccine, has caused many students at the College to have trouble accessing the flu shot. With only about 300 doses, Health Services at the College can guarantee the flu shot only to those who fall into the “high risk” category.

According to an Oct. 7 article in The New York Times, Chiron Corporations was suspended for three months because of concerns over contaminations found at one of the factories owned by the company. This suspension means that there will be a shortage around the world in the amount of vaccinations available for the upcoming flu season.

As a result, even the clinic at the College is affected. “We were expecting an unlimited supply of vaccinations this year from our supplier Passport Health, but now the amount is down to about only 300 doses of the flu shot and we are still unsure of the amount of FluMist that will be available,” Janice Vermeychuk, associate director and Nurse Practitioner of Health Services, said.

The College community was informed through e-mail that people considered a “high-risk priority” can receive the flu shot for a charge of $16 on Oct. 21 in the Student Center from approximately 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until the supply of the vaccine is exhausted.

High-risk patients include those who are 65 years old or older, women pregnant during the flu season and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer or the HIV/AIDS virus.

Others may receive the alternative, an intranasal spray, called FluMist.

Health-care workers, caretakers of children less than six months old and those younger than 19 on Aspirin therapy are also among those in the high-risk category. Recipients of the FluMist, however, can be those between the ages of five and 49 who are healthy and not pregnant.

For those who are unable to receive either the shot or the spray, there are certain measures that can help ward off the flu. “Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of sleep, consistently wash your hands, and do all the things your mom told you to do as a child,” Vermeychuk said.

In addition to Vermeychuk’s tips, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that managing stress levels, keeping a distance from those who are sick, staying home from school or work when sick, as well as restraining from touching the eyes or mouth, can all help in protecting from germs and, in the process, from contracting the flu.

Symptoms of the flu range from headaches, sore throats, muscle aches, dry coughs and high fever. Other flu-like illnesses are known as influenza-like illnesses, and usually involve symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

“Most students are not aware of the difference and once they experience any flu-like symptoms they immediately assume they have the flu,” Vermeychuk said. “In fact, we don’t usually get cases of the flu until early December.”

Still, because CDC reports that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and approximately 36,000 die from the flu every year, students who are at high risk should seek out vaccinations immediately and those who aren’t should still take all the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.

Anyone who is allergic to chicken eggs or has had an onset of Gullian-Barre syndrome within six weeks of receiving the flu vaccine, however, should not receive any of the flu vaccinations because the effects can be harmful.