ATLANTA (AP) — Scattered flu shot shortages around the country should be eased by 10 million new doses scheduled to be delivered this month, a top federal health official said Thursday.
Private companies and state and local health care providers buy most flu shot doses, but the federal government is buying more than 900,000 doses this month to shore up supplies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 71 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed so far, despite delivery delays and shortfalls from manufacturers. Some doctors, health departments and companies have had trouble getting vaccine, and some have canceled vaccination clinics.
Fortunately, the flu season is off to a gentle start, said CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding.
"If we continue along this track, we expect there's time for most people to have their vaccine," she said at the CDC's Atlanta headquarters.
Last week, fewer than 2 percent of patients visiting their doctors had flu-like illness, according to the CDC.
Most Americans should be able to get shots in November and December and still have full vaccine protection by the time flu season peaks, which in most states is January and February, federal and state health officials said.
Vaccine shortages have been reported in Arizona and Connecticut, among other places.
Flu shot demand appears to be up this year because of last year's vaccine shortage and because of fears of a deadly bird flu epidemic. However, the flu vaccine is not expected to protect people from the viral strain seen in Asian poultry.
Federal money is being used to buy about 11.5 million doses this season, including 6.5 million already purchased by state and local officials. By the end of the month the government expects to get 800,000 doses of shots from a California manufacturer, Chiron Corp., and 110,000 doses of FluMist from a Maryland manufacturer, MedImmune Inc.
More than 4 million more doses are to be delivered in December or January, in case they are needed late in the flu season, a CDC spokesman said.
Complications from the flu kill an estimated 36,000 Americans a year.