Lack of flu shots postpones health fair

TUPELO – The annual Live Well Health Fair has been postponed because the seasonal flu vaccine ordered for the event hasn’t arrived.
North Mississippi Medical Center, which buys the vaccine to give away at the annual health fair, ordered 7,000 doses in December.
“We feel like we’ll get the vaccine, but we don’t know when,” said Liz Dawson, director of NMMC Community Health.
The health fair will be rescheduled as soon as NMMC is confident they have the vaccine in hand. Last year, NMMC, with the help of Mississippi State Health Department nurses, administered 6,200 flu shots.
“A lot of people do depend on it,” Dawson said. “That’s why we’re postponing it, not canceling it.”
The same manufacturers making seasonal vaccine also are making the swine flu vaccine, which means a capacity crunch.
For Mississippians, the delay likely will not cause significant problems.
“Usually we don’t see seasonal flu until the end of December,” said Liz Sharlot, communications director for the Mississippi State Department of Health.
North Mississippi Medical Clinics has seen a steady demand for the seasonal flu shot, and some clinics have exhausted their supply, said David Barber, chief executive for the clinics, which are affiliated with NMMC.
“We have checked with other sources,” but the clinics haven’t found a supplier who can help restock the vaccine, Barber said.
Vaccine for swine flu, also called novel H1N1, should become more widely available soon.
“We’re beginning to get to significant increases in the availability,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday.
Last week, the state health department received 61,000 doses of injectible swine flu vaccine. That was in addition to the 69,000 nasal vaccine doses it had received earlier in October from the CDC.
“We’ve sent it out to the providers who have signed up,” Sharlot said. Those shots are aimed at pregnant women and children 6 months to 4 years old who are at the highest risk for complications.
“It’s very limited,” Sharlot said. “There’s not much out there.”
As more swine flu vaccine arrives, the health department will offer it to the remaining priority groups – caregivers for infants, children and young adults under 25 and adults under 65 with pre-existing lung, immune and heart conditions.
“The CDC tells us that we need to be patient,” Sharlot said. “Eventually it will be available for everyone.”

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal