'Spot' Shortages of Flu Vaccine, Tamiflu Reported, FDA Head Says

TUESDAY Jan. 15, 2013 -- Sporadic shortages of both the flu vaccine and the flu treatment Tamiflu are being reported, as this year's intense flu season continues, according to a top U.S. health official.

"We have received reports that some consumers have found spot shortages of the vaccine," Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Monday on her blog on the agency's website.

Hamburg said that the agency is "monitoring this situation and will update you at our website and at www.flu.gov."

So far, more than 128 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed, Hamburg said, but not all the doses have been administered to people yet.

She said that people who already have the flu may also be experiencing local shortages of Tamiflu, a drug that can help treat influenza.

"We do anticipate intermittent, temporary shortages of the oral suspension form of Tamiflu -- the liquid version often prescribed for children -- for the remainder of the flu season. However, FDA is working with the manufacturer to increase supply," she said.

Hamburg also noted that "FDA-approved instructions on the label provide directions for pharmacists on how to compound a liquid form of Tamiflu from Tamiflu capsules."

Flu season typically peaks in January or February but can extend as late as May. This flu season is turning out to be more severe than last year's, many experts say.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that 47 states were reporting widespread influenza activity, although flu case numbers were beginning to subside in some regions, especially in the Southeast where flu showed up first.

It's still not too late to get the flu shot to help protect you, Hamburg stressed. She noted that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop an immune response to provide protection against the flu.

"The flu vaccine is moderately effective this year, and people who are vaccinated have about a 60 percent lower risk of getting the flu compared to someone who is not vaccinated," Dr. Edward Belongia, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said in a statement released Friday.

People who want to get vaccinated can visit flu.gov, click on the "Flu Vaccine Finder," enter their zip code and find a list of clinics, supermarkets, pharmacies and other flu vaccination locations in their neighborhoods.

But before you go to one of the locations, call ahead to confirm that they have the flu vaccine, Hamburg advised.

According to recommendations from the CDC, all adults and children who are at least 6 months old should receive a flu vaccination each year. The best time to get vaccinated is in the fall.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the flu and flu vaccine.

Posted: January 2013


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