With influenza season around the corner, health officials are urging those who have yet to do so to get their immunization soon. But some who expected to receive a shot next week through the Geisinger Health Plan won’t be able to.
Several businesses that are served by Geisinger, including The Times Leader, have been informed some scheduled workplace clinics would be pushed back by a few weeks because of a delay in receiving the vaccines.
Geisinger spokesman Matthew Van Stone said Thursday the delay in getting the vaccine from the manufacturers is only having a minimal impact. Geisinger will have the full amount available for clinics and patients by mid-October, he said.
He said the delay has nothing to do with the government shutdown, which has hampered agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
Health officials also say the government shutdown will have no impact on the supply and shipment of flu shots this fall though being able to track the outbreak could be hampered if the shutdown drags on as the Centers for Disease Control will not have the staff in place to monitor reports of the flu.
This means the Centers for Disease Control’s website will not be updating its flu surveillance service, which helps physicians and others track the disease’s movement nationally.
Donna Cary, a spokeswoman for Swiftwater-based Sanofi Pasteur, which makes about 45 percent of the nation’s flu vaccine supply, said the shutdown is having “zero effect” on the vaccine making and shipping process. She said about 60 million doses will be manufactured this year, and while there was a two-week delay in the first shipments compared to last year, it’s not having much of an impact on supplies.
“Right now, everything for us is caught up,” Cary said.
And that’s good news for those that have yet to get a flu shot, because October is the typical start of flu season. The CDC notes “Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.”
Commonwealth Health, which operates several local hospitals including Wilkes-Barre General, Tyler Memorial and First Hospital, issued a statement saying: “The hospitals of Commonwealth Health are not experiencing a shortage of influenza vaccine or any delays in providing flu shots to our patients or employees.”
Holli Senior, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said she is unaware of any shortages of vaccine this year, though delays are possible. Regardless, she said the department “strongly recommends flu vaccine for everybody 6 months of age and older.”
Ted Kross, the director of the Wilkes-Barre Health Department, said the only issue the city had this year was getting doses of the new Quadravalent (four-strain) vaccine. For other doses, “we ordered ours in the spring and have received all of (them.)”