Nursing Homes Worst Hit by Lack of Flu Vaccine

MINNEAPOLIS -- In light of the influenza vaccine shortage, the Minnesota Department of Health and local public health have surveyed communities, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes regarding their vaccine supplies and needs. Results indicate that Minnesota has about 414,000 doses of flu shots in the state, but is short 377,000 doses mostly vaccine that was ordered by long-term care facilities and other providers from the maker Chiron.


Long-term care facilities have virtually no supplies of vaccine right now. They tend to order more product from Chiron than others, said state immunization program chief Kris Ehresmann. We dont expect more vaccine from Chiron this year, and this situation will especially affect the amount of vaccine available for older people.


Survey results indicate that clinics serving families and children have better supplies of vaccine, primarily because they ordered the Aventis vaccine which covers infants, children and adults, whereas the withdrawn Chiron product is used only for older children and adults.


Our primary objective right now is to help get the limited supply of vaccine to those who need it most, Ehresmann said. We simply cannot let long term care facilities go without vaccine, particularly because these people dont even have the option to go to walk-in clinics. Specifically, we are asking companies and clinics who may have ordered extra vaccine this year to consider allowing nursing homes and others a chance to buy it.


The survey is a significant step toward identifying and reallocating vaccine supplies. Were already hearing success stories of communities working collaboratively, including large companies such as 3M, Polaris and Marvin Windows, who have agreed to redirect their employees vaccine to vaccinate only high-risk people in their communities, Ehresmann said.


Were going to continue to need that kind of cooperation to get the job done, with lots of patience and cooperation on everyones part. But the good news is, we have some time to do it. We dont have disease in the state right now and flu season in Minnesota usually doesnt begin until after Nov. 1, Ehresmann said.


In order to make sure people who are most at risk for complications of influenza get their shots, health officials are asking healthy Minnesotans to forego their flu shot this year. Healthy families and individuals can do their part by canceling their flu shot appointments.


Those who should still seek a flu shot this year are:


People 65 years of age or older

People living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

People with chronic health problems  

Pregnant women

Children and teenagers who take aspirin on a regular basis

Infants 6 to 23 months

ONLY those healthcare workers who provide direct patient care

People who live in the same household with children under six months of age - or who provide care to children under six months of age outside the home


For those who fall outside the high risk groups, there are steps they can take -- besides getting vaccinated -- to protect themselves and others from the flu:


Do your best to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, moderate exercise, and eat right.


Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu like illness.


Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away. If you dont have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.


Wash your hands often with soap and water, or with an alcohol based, waterless hand sanitizer.


Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as door knobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.


Source: Minnesota Department of Health