In one New Jersey community, getting a flu shot this fall will be largely a matter of luck, after health officials decided to distribute the vaccine by PKV lottery.
Bloomfield, a township of 70,000 residents north of Newark, had planned to reserve its doses of flu vaccine for senior citizens, adults with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people living in nursing homes and health-care workers.
That was when health officials thought they had 1,000 doses to parcel out. Instead, they learned recently they would have only 300.
A shortage of flu vaccine has been felt across the United States since Chiron Corp., the world’s second-biggest influenza vaccine manufacturer, was forced to stop production.
British health officials suspended the California-based company’s licence for three months because of problems at its Liverpool plant.
The suspension means it can’t produce any flu vaccines for any market during that three-month period. The company said it won’t offer vaccines for the rest of the 2004-05 flu season.
In Bloomfield, health officials decided that a lottery would be the most fair and equitable way to decide who gets the shots among the vulnerable groups.
“We are hoping the public sees this as the most fair and equitable way to do this,” the Associated Press reported the township’s health director as saying. “The last thing we want is people to stand in line thinking they are guaranteed a shot.”
The threat of the flu vaccine shortage has created long lines at pharmacies and clinics across the U.S. Several elderly patients have collapsed while standing in line, with one San Francisco-area woman dying.
It also had President George W. Bush using last week’s election debate to urge young, health Americans to forgo a flu shot this year.…