Shots incoming Limited new stocks of flu vaccine should soon be en route to some Washington area health care providers through a redistribution program set up by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and vaccine manufacturer Aventis Pasteur. Elissa Laitin, district epidemiologist for the Arlington Health District, said yesterday that her department had begun receiving vaccine under the program. "Most of the vaccine will be distributed to private providers," said Laitin, "because they know best who the real high-risk patients are." Patients in need should stay in contact with their health care providers, Laitin said.

Matter of Faith The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington will not follow the lead of a Vermont bishop who directed priests not to allow sharing of a common Communion cup or exchange a sign of peace -- ususally a handshake -- through Easter as a "protective measure" against the flu. Communications director Susan Gibbs said the Washington archdiocese trusts parishioners to use good judgment in deciding whether to receive communion and will not impose a ban for two reasons: "First, there hasn't been any evidence that [communion] is connected to a higher rate of disease or illness. And second, it is optional for people to decide whether to receive it."

Mister Yuck: This potentially useful advice for avoiding viral and bacterial transfer this season comes from Mark Mengel, chair of the department of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine: "Don't eat after double dippers at holiday buffets. The person who nabs a second and third dollop of ranch dressing on the same carrot stick may be passing the virus to those who eat after him." We weren't doing that anyway, were we?

-- Gregory Mott