Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why do some medical offices not consistently have the flu vaccine this 2016-2017 year?

     In the Spring of 2016, the national organizations made the recommendation to not do the Flu Mist nasal influenza vaccine because of it's lack of effectiveness in the last 3 influenza seasons. This information was available for us soon enough to cancel our Flu Mist order for the 2016-2017 season and increase our order of the flu shot. However, this has happened all over the country and has increased the demand for the flu shot routinely used with children (there are some flu shots that are not used for all ages). This increased demand has meant that the makers of the flu shot have had some delays producing enough flu shots to keep all office's supplied at all times. Although we do not know when it will be received, we will keep you updated when we know more about our supply.
     We actually order the flu vaccine in the previous Winter for the next season. That means by February 2016, our order was placed for the 2016-2017 season. We added to our order of flu shots once it was known that the Flu Mist would not be used this year.
     A review of our recommendations may be helpful. We recommend the annual flu vaccine to all of our patients 6 months and above [there are some of our patients who cannot safely receive the vaccine -- the most common reason is a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to egg and egg protein]. The first year the vaccine is given, if the child is less than 9 years of age, they get the best protection if they receive two doses a month apart. Unless there are special circumstances some year (there were a few years ago when the H1N1 strain emerged), that is the only time a second dose is needed the same season.
     Years ago, it was thought the vaccine's protection against influenza only lasted a few months,  The current recommendation says to give the vaccine from when it is first available in July-September and it is fine to receive it, if not received previously that season, for as long as the flu vaccine supply is available (we have given it as late as January when it has still been available). It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to work well, and the typical season for influenza in the community is from October or November through February or March, so ideally the vaccine is received by October each year. In our experience, the vaccine continues to give protection throughout the season.
     Each year, experts pick the 3 or 4 strains of influenza in the vaccine for that year. As you may be aware, some years the match of what is in the vaccine as protection and what strain goes through the community can vary. Some years, the protection is terrific because there was a good match. Other years, many who received the vaccine may still become ill with influenza because the match was not a good one. We do not yet know this year about how well matched the vaccine strains will be with the virus strains in the community.
      To summarize: 1. we recommend the flu vaccine, 2. only the flu shot is available this year, 3. we are out of the vaccine right now but expect more doses soon, and 4. we will keep you up to date about our supply.

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