By Lori Bredemeyer, Managing Editor
The possible contamination of about 48 million doses of the flu vaccine in a British manufacturing plant has cut the supply of flu shots in the United States in half. Vaccine clinics across the country were canceled, including one at ACU on Friday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a list of recommended qualifications for those who should receive the shot.
Dr. Tony Rector, medical director for clinical services, said although two planned clinics have been canceled on campus, he still hopes to have a small supply of the shots to administer to those who meet the CDC’s criteria.
“It is not 100 percent confirmed, and that ambiguity probably reflects the unsuredness that everybody’s facing right now,” he said. “This really blindsided the health-care industry here.”
Rector said students with asthma, chronic heart conditions or other serious medical problems will be given priority on campus to receive the vaccine. He said the medical clinic usually administers about 500-800 shots each year, and he is looking at other options to help prevent an outbreak.
A nasal spray, FluMist, was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration for healthy people ages 5 to 49, and Rector said he will probably know within three weeks whether it will be available on campus. FluMist is a vaccine that protects against the flu like the shot does.
Also, the medical clinic has previously offered two medications that will probably be available this year: one to help reduce the chance of contracting the virus after contact with an infected person, and another to help lessen the severity of the illness once a person has suffered initial symptoms.
Rector said although fewer people will receive the shot, he doesn’t anticipate a more severe flu season.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any more than in years past,” he said, “but part of that has been based on the aggressiveness of the flu strain itself. That is a matter of good guesswork by the experts worldwide, and they’re not predicting anything particularly aggressive this year as far as the strain of the virus.
“That is good news, so [there is] hope if you get it, it may not be as severe as some in the past.”
Rector said if students are not able to obtain the vaccine from the campus medical clinic, they can call the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District, which will conduct a vaccination clinic on Friday at the Civic Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To avoid contracting the virus, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with others, staying home when you’re sick, covering your mouth and nose, washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Angela Estes, director of nursing at the campus medical clinic, said in an e-mail that these steps will help prevent an rash of on-campus cases of the flu.
“We need to keep in mind that not getting the vaccine does not mean that we have to get the flu,” Estes said. “The choices that we make to stay healthy and to practice good hygiene will in part determine the incidence of the disease in our community and on our campus.”