No flu vaccine shortage, manufacturers say

No flu vaccine shortage, manufacturers say

POSTED: Friday, January 11, 2013 - 7:00am

UPDATED: Friday, January 11, 2013 - 7:04am

As the number of seasonal influenza cases continues to rise, reports of vaccine shortages in some locations are beginning to circulate. But vaccine manufacturers say there is plenty of vaccine for those who want to get a flu shot.

MedImmune, manufacturer of FluMist, the only flu vaccine that comes in a nasal spray, produced 12 million doses for the current season to fill customer orders. In addition to those orders, they produced extra doses. FluMist is approved for healthy people between the age of 2 and 49.

"Right now we currently have 310,000 extra doses that could ship tomorrow," Tor Constantino, MedImmune spokesperson, told CNN. "All of those expire next month. Another 70,000 doses are available that could ship tomorrow, and those expire in March.

The company has another 250,000 doses they're holding in reserve that would be shared between Medicaid's Vaccines for Children Program (VCP) and the Department of Defense (DOD). In total, they have a surplus of 620,000 extra doses.

Sanofi Pasteur made more than 60 million doses of Fluzone for the United States alone. According to Michael Szumera, SP's director of public relations, they've sold out of some versions of Fluzone, but the company has adult flu vaccine ready for immediate shipment.

Fluzone is a relatively new type of flu shot with a very short needle, making it less intimidating than a traditional flu shot.

"This product is available in two presentations: Fluzone intradermal vaccine for ages 18 to 64 and Fluzone High-Dose vaccine for ages 65 and above," Szumera said.

"Additionally, in response to unanticipated late-season demand, we have arranged for a limited supply of additional vaccine in 0.5-milliliter unit dose vials. This product is indicated for ages 6 months and above. We are accepting orders for this product and anticipate being able to start shipping in late January."

Glaxo Smith Kline, makers of Fluarix and FluLaval, said they, too, have adequate supply to meet customer demand. The pharmaceutical company has produced about 25 million doses of vaccine, most of which have been shipped.

"We have completed production of this year's vaccine, and are confident supply of seasonal flu vaccine should cover demand," Dr. Leonard Friedland, who heads up medical affairs and clinical development for GSK Vaccines North America. "The greater issue is that less than 50 percent of the U.S. population gets vaccinated each year."

Novartis committed to 30 million doses of their vaccine Fluvirin and shipped more than 36 million. Spokeswoman Julie Masow says they are working to address any urgent needs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccine makers produced about 135 million doses this year. As of early this month 128 million doses had already been distributed.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told CNN he was not aware of widespread problems with finding vaccines.

"There may be spot shortages out there, and people wanting to be vaccinated should call ahead to the provider to see if they have vaccine," Skinner said.

There have also been reported shortages of the antiviral Tamiflu Oral Suspension (Tamiflu OS), the liquid version of Tamiflu. When taken early, this drug can reduce the severity of symptoms and the length of illness. It is recommended mostly for people at higher risk of flu complications.

There were temporary delays in new shipments of Tamiflu OSral Suspension, driven in part by an early and strong flu season, Tara Iannuccillo, spokeswoman for Genentech, said in an e-mail.

"We experienced an increase in demand due to a higher prevalence of influenza Type B early in the season," Iannuccillo said.

Tamiflu OS is typically prescribed for children under the age if 13 and people who have trouble swallowing. But pharmacists can mix Tamiflu capsules into liquid for those patients who require it.

"We are working to expedite new shipments of Tamiflu OS to distributors as new supplies become available," she said.

To find out where to get a flu shot, go to flu.gov.

-- CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

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