Still searching for a place to get a flu shot? Try Atlanta, home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Finding a provider with available vaccine remains a hit-or-miss proposition in the Washington area and in much of the rest of the country. But plugging the CDC's Zip code (30333) into the American Lung Association's Flu Clinic Locator (www.flucliniclocator.org) turns up more than 500 scheduled clinics within a 20-mile radius of CDC's headquarters. The explanation, according to Lung Association spokeswoman Michelle Sawatka, is that public health agencies in the Atlanta area list their clinics on the site, whereas those in most other areas do not.
When is a shortage not a shortage? When the government says so.
The CDC reported earlier this month that more than 70 million doses of vaccine have been shipped by manufacturers so far this season -- more than the total for the 2004-05 flu season -- and that total production may exceed the single-season high (83.1 million in 2002-03). Plenty for everyone, the agency said.
So why can't you call up your doctor or stroll into a Giant to get your shot? It's a matter of demand and distribution, said Raymond Strikas, associate director for adult immunization with the CDC's National Immunization Program.
Citing anecdotal reports, Strikas said consumer demand at clinics run by Maxim Health Systems and others may have been up by 30 to 40 percent over previous years, leading those clinics to be shut down earlier than had been anticipated. He said doctors and other smaller purchasers have had difficulty getting their orders filled because they rely on distributors who get vaccine from Chiron Corp., which announced last month that it would fall short of its production goals.
So what now? Acknowledging the frustration consumers and providers must be feeling, Strikas urges people to keep checking with their doctors or public health agencies for late-arriving vaccine, repeating the reminder that it is still not too late to benefit from a shot.
New concerns emerged last week about Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which is regarded as effective for treatment and prevention of seasonal flu, as well as a possible bulwark against avian influenza.
European regulators ordered a safety check on the drug after reports that two Japanese teenagers committed suicide after taking it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Pediatric Advisory Committee reviewed the safety profile of Tamiflu Friday as part of a scheduled review. The panel said available data do not support a causal link between pediatric deaths and Tamiflu. The FDA plans to continue monitor the drug's adverse events profile, FDA spokeswoman Susan Bro said via e-mail.
Tamiflu received a "do not use" recommendation in the paperback edition of "Worst Pills, Best Pills" published this year. But that advice was based on a judgment that the drug provided limited benefit in treating or preventing flu.
-- Gregory Mott