University offers flu vaccine

Despite the nation’s current flu vaccine shortage, students at Florida A&M University can still get a flu shot.

The vaccine is available at the University’s student health services.

“You can’t buy a (flu) shot for $10 anywhere in town,” said Shankar Shetty, director of student health services.

The flu vaccine shortage was brought to the public’s attention when Chiron Corporation, a major supplier of flu vaccine, notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that none of its flu vaccine (Fluvirin®) would be available for distribution in the United States for the 2004-2005 flu season, according to a press release on the CDC’s Web site.

According to the release, “…the company indicated that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom, where Chiron’s Fluvirin vaccine is produced, has suspended the company’s license to manufacture Fluvirin vaccine in its Liverpool facility for three months, preventing any release of the vaccine for this influenza season.”

Shetty said FAMU health services received its supply of the vaccination from a wholesale provider in Tampa – a company the facility purchases all its medication from.

“We placed our call a long way back, and fortunately it’s not the same company which uses the supply from England,” Shetty said.

The nation’s flu vaccine supply was reduced by half this flu season, and because of this, the CDC announced priority groups for the vaccination.

These priority groups, also classified as high-risk individuals, include all children between six and 23 months, adults 65 years and older, persons between two and 64 years of age with underlying chronic medical conditions.

All women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children six months to 18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy, health-care workers with direct patient care, out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children under six months are also considered high-risk.

As far as this list goes, healthy students are not considered high-risk. Even though Shetty said “not many people in the student population are considered high risk,” he is still urging students to get the vaccine.

“We have it, so why not?”

Shetty also noted that the few high-risk students might be those with diabetes, HIV and pregnant students in at least their second trimester.

Jackie DiPietri, public information officer at the Department of Health said that over 650,000 high-risk individuals in the state of Florida have already received flu vaccines.

The department is also working on ways to keep the public up to date. It will be starting a Web site where individuals can receive information about the flu vaccine shortage and flu prevention, as well as establishing a management team to educate the public, DiPietri said.

Shetty said the FAMU health services have administered 40 or 50 of its 100 flu shots already this season.

He is also surprised that the facility still has doses available.

“I thought it would run out,” he said.

Despite the fact that fliers have been posted, some students still don’t know the vaccines are available.

Deniece McKenzie, 22, did not know that vaccine is available on campus.

“If they [the health services] would like for people to receive vaccinations, they need to campaign more,” said the senior graphic design student from Atlanta.

McKenzie also said health services should provide students with other alternatives to the flu shot, such as advising them to eat healthy and take their vitamins.

Whenever the 100 doses run out, health services will not be able to get anymore of the vaccines this season.

Shetty said the vaccines are ordered based on the amount of flu shots administered in the previous flu season.

He also noted that the health services is careful not to order too much of the vaccine because once this season is over, the vaccine cannot be used for the next flu season.

“We can’t get anymore, but we want to get rid of it because … (this year’s flu vaccine) is not good for next year. The flu is not the same kind of virus each year, it varies,” Shetty said.

Students who are not able to get the flu shot should exercise basic healthy habits this flu season. According to a report on CDC’s Web site, although vaccination is the best protection against influenza.

Everyone can take practical steps to help prevent the spread of the flu, by avoiding close contact with people who are sick, keeping their distance from others if they are sick, as well as staying home from work, school and running errands when sick, and covering their mouths and nose when coughing or sneezing, and cleaning their hands often.

DiPietri said the flu season in the United States is usually between December and March.

Shetty is advising students to take the vaccine by early November, because “once you take the shot it takes a couple of weeks to kick in, (so) the earlier the better.”

“We still have 50, 60 (doses) left so those who want are welcome to come until they run out,” Shetty said.

Contact Kalifa Hickinson at