FluMist, however, can be used by some high-priority groups outlined by the CDC, specifically health care workers younger than 49 who have direct contact with patients, and day care workers and household contacts of children younger than 6 months. However, people who have close contact with AIDS patients and others with impaired immunity should not get the live vaccine, experts say.
After Chiron announced it would not be able to supply its flu shots, federal health officials asked MedImmune if it could produce even more than its expanded production run of 2.1 million, and the company has been looking at ways to do so, said Bill Pierce, an HHS spokesman.
In an interview last night, chief executive David M. Mott said he did not know when MedImmune concluded it could make a million more doses, but that he informed HHS officials yesterday afternoon that it was possible.
Only hours earlier, in an 8 a.m. conference call with financial analysts, MedImmune executives had repeated earlier statements that they expected to sell 1 million to 2 million doses this season. They made no mention of an effort to produce the extra million doses.
"Basically, this came to fruition today," Mott said, adding that he had not misled investors because the extra production does not change the company's financial projections.
Also yesterday Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the Senate majority leader who is also a surgeon, said members of Congress who got flu shots in his office were either following federal guidelines or their own doctors' recommendations, the Associated Press reported.
Frist was responding to criticism that his Senate office had provided vaccine to lawmakers for two days after CDC asked that only people in the high-priority groups get the shots.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), meanwhile, yesterday called for an investigation into the planning and coordination of vaccine procurement by HHS agencies.
A campaign aide for Vice President Cheney, responding to inquiries made earlier in the week, said, "The vice president gets a flu shot at the recommendation of his doctor every year because of his history of heart disease. It would be irresponsible of the vice president not to follow the recommendations of his doctor and the CDC."
Staff writers Michael Rosenwald and Michael Laris contributed to this report.