Who's got shots? Those long lines for flu shots at Giant Pharmacies and Shoppers Food Warehouses are history. By last weekend, the most prominent Washington area sources of flu vaccine had exhausted supplies.
Nearly all the flu vaccine distributed by Aventis Pasteur is now in the hands of private physicians, who are free to distribute it as they see fit, according to Pat Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County Department of Health. If your doctor doesn't have it, you may be able to find one who does by calling around. That option may disappear soon, however, if local officials succeed in retrieving supplies for redistribution to those most in need. Officials faxed doctors last week, asking their cooperation in this effort.
The mist For some seeking protection, MedImmune's intranasal spray FluMist remains an alternative. Pediatrician Frederick J. Corder, health officer for Prince George's County, suggested that health care workers consider using the mist instead of getting shots. Two of the Washington area's largest health insurers -- Aetna and CareFirst -- announced last week they will cover use of the spray.
High-risk groups include adults age 65 and older; infants and toddlers 6 to 23 months old; adults and children age 2 or older with chronic heart, lung or metabolic diseases; women who will be pregnant during flu season; and health care workers. Health authorities are urging others to delay or forgo vaccination. Last week, District officials made it illegal to do otherwise.
Meanwhile Washington area health officials meeting yesterday said people should not use the shot shortage as an excuse to let their defenses down.
"The flu shot is not necessarily the most important part of the effort to keep yourself well," said Arlington County Health Director Susan Allan, who reminded people to practice good hygiene: wash hands frequently, sneeze into their elbows -- and stay home when ill.
-- Gregory Mott