10/08/04 — Hospital hit by vaccine shortage

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Hospital hit by vaccine shortage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 8, 2004 1:59 PM

No one is immune to the flu vaccine shortage, including Wayne Memorial Hospital, where officials say its supplier was the one shut down earlier this week.

Physician's offices and programs that cater to many elderly people are also responding to the problem.

Thomas Bradshaw, vice president of operations at Wayne Memorial Hospital, said the order for 2,350 doses had been placed last year.

"Unfortunately, we chose the supplier that was shut down in England," he said. "We're not expecting to receive any vaccines this year, because they were the sole provider that was closed down because of the contamination problem."

Production at Chiron Corp. was halted suddenly this week by British regulators. Chiron is one of two manufacturers of the vaccine, the other being Aventis Pasteur.

Bradshaw said the hospital is certainly better off with no vaccines rather than contaminated ones, but it still makes for a challenge.

"Our pharmacy department is spending a lot of time out there trying to find some," he said today. "But at this point, we do not have any and quite honestly don't expect to get any."

He said the North Carolina Hospital Association has established a redistribution process and plans to appeal to other hospitals across the state that may have additional doses. That may provide some relief for Wayne Memorial.

"When they take care of their patient population, we're hoping that they can get these extras or leftover doses and redistribute them to other hospitals," he said.

"They told us that they have got us down for 150 doses."

That amount could cover the hospital's patients that would be considered at high risk for flu, Bradshaw said, but would still be "just a drop in the bucket."

Bradshaw said the hospital typically orders vaccines for all of its 1,300 employees as well as volunteers, retirees and industries around the county. Patients, he said, normally acquire the vaccination through their work, their own physicians, or the Health Department.

James Roosen, county health director, said it is too soon to predict what will happen, "but it doesn't look like there's going to be any more supplies."

He said any vaccines received will first be given to the most medically fragile members of the community, particularly the elderly and young children.

"Mainly we want to make sure the more vulnerable folks have access to it," he said.

Callers to Goldsboro Family Physicians are greeted with a recording that "we will not have any flu vaccines at all this year. There are no vaccines available."

Nurse Edie Mitchell orders the medical supplies for the practice and for the WATCH program, which runs the mobile health clinic. She said she had been unsuccessful securing vaccines for either and is finding the same to be true for others in Goldsboro.

"Most places in Goldsboro order through the same place that we do, Aventis," she said.

She said she had ordered 800 doses this year for her office. She was unsure of the figures for WATCH, but said they were considerably lower because most of the WATCH patients are referred to the Health Department for the vaccine.