Shortage of Seasonal Flu Vaccine Looms

Supplies running low, manufacturers can't make more
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2009 1:19 AM CST
Belinda Patterson receives a flu shot from nurse Jobyna Foster at Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Centers in St. Louis.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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(Newser) – Severe shortages of seasonal flu vaccines are expected across the country in coming weeks as supplies run short amid increasing demand. Manufacturers have committed their production to making H1N1 vaccines and lack the capacity to make any more seasonal flu vaccines this year. The director of the CDC told lawmakers yesterday that officials are “very frustrated” by the shortages but are powerless to prevent them, the New York Times reports.

Flu clinics have been canceled in some places. In New York City, where officials have already vaccinated more people than they did in all of last year, the health department has asked doctors to stop giving seasonal flu shots to healthy people under the age of 65. Experts say the main cause of the problem is that vaccine companies abandoned the American market in the '90s, leaving the US dependent on foreign suppliers.