Flu Vaccine Shortage Restricts Access to This Year’s Shot
On the heels of concerns about a mercury-containing substance in some of the flu shots being distributed in the United States this year comes a new crisis in the availability of the vaccine itself.
XT-INDENT: 0in">Health officials in the United Kingdom recently suspended the license of Chiron Corporation, a major producer of the flu vaccine, because of manufacturing problems and possible contamination issues. The suspension is scheduled to last three months.

XT-INDENT: 0in">The move has cut the U.S. supply of the flu vaccine in half, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

XT-INDENT: 0in">To help conserve the vaccine and ensure that high-risk groups have access to the vaccine, the CDC is asking anyone not in a priority group to forego a flu vaccination this season.

XT-INDENT: 0in">Priority groups for influenza vaccination this season are:

XT-INDENT: 0in">• all children ages 6 to 23 months

XT-INDENT: 0in">• adults ages 65 and older

XT-INDENT: 0in">• all people with underlying chronic medical conditions

XT-INDENT: 0in">• all women who will be pregnant during the flu season

XT-INDENT: 0in">• residents of nursing homes

• children over 6 months of age who take aspirin daily

• health-care workers

• caregivers and household contacts of children under the age of 6 months

The flu season generally runs from November through March. Symptoms include high fever (102Ί to 104Ί Fahrenheit), pronounced fatigue and weakness, body aches, coughing and chest discomfort. The 2003-2004 flu season was particularly dangerous, resulting in the deaths of 152 children from complications of the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Of those fatalities, 41 percent were children under the age of 2.

This year, the CDC recommends flu shots for the following populations:

• children and adults with heart, respiratory or immune disorders

• healthy babies and toddlers between ages 6 months and 24 months

• pregnant women

• people over the age of 50

• people who live with, work with or come in frequent contact with any of the above populations

The American Lung Association has established a Web site ( that helps you locate a health-care provider who is giving flu shots this season. Simply enter your zip code, preferred traveling distance and the time you would like to get vaccinated, and a list of providers will be supplied. The site also offers information about the vaccine shortage and the high-risk groups who will still be able to get the flu shot.

More About the Flu

If, like many people, you have difficulty telling the difference between a bad cold and the flu. You'll want to read our tips on how to tell “Is it a cold or the flu?”