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Flu shots only for most needy

Whidbey Island is still adjusting to the flu vaccine shortage created last week when a major supplier suspended shipments to the United States.

Employees of Whidbey General Hospital who provide direct patient care will be among the first given the approximately 400 doses of influenza vaccine the hospital has procured.

Whidbey General Hospital CEO Scott Rhine said the hospital has developed a committee to decide which employees will receive the vaccine. He said the hospital will be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to decide who will get the shot.

The hospital ordered its vaccine from the nation’s second-largest supplier, Aventis Pasteur Inc., before Chiron Corporation announced Oct. 5 that it would not be able to supply the vaccine.

Whidbey General Hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose said that if the hospital has extra doses available, it would distribute them to Island County Health Department for appropriate distribution.

The health department needs the vaccines as it had ordered its supply from Chiron. The department currently has no vaccine at all, according to Island County Health Officer Roger Case.

The county is on a waiting list for the vaccine, but none is expected to arrive in time for the flu season, according to a written statement from Dr. Case.

Island Drug in Oak Harbor went through more than 1,500 doses of the vaccine in less than one week, pharmacist Aaron Syring said. The pharmacy gave shots to 1,100 people in the span of three days following the announcement of the shortage.

Most of those people were over the age of 65 and had other conditions that would make them more susceptible to the disease, Syring said.

The pharmacy has a waiting list for shots, but Syring said he is not sure when the pharmacy will receive more vaccine from Aventis Pasteur.

“We’ll hang in there and get as many people vaccinated as possible,” he said.

Priority for the vaccine is given to the elderly and the very young. Another option is available for the rest of the population, but it comes with its restrictions. FluMist is a nasal spray that is to be used only by healthy 5- to 49-year-olds.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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