For the first time in recent memory, health professionals in the U.S. expect to see a shortage in the seasonal flu vaccine this year, as more Americans than usual are requesting the annual shot.
Every year the government is forced to throwout millions of doses of unused flu vaccine, as fewer than half of Americans eligible for the shot actually choose to get it.
But this year, seasonal flu vaccine clinics across the country are being forced to shut down because of sporadic shortages.
"Unfortunately, what happened is that the manufacturers — in their rush to get H1N1 vaccine into production – curtailed their production of seasonal flu vaccine," Dr. Bruce Dixon, director of the Allegheny County Health Department in Pennsylvania, told WTAE-TV. "Many people got half an order, with the expectation that they would get some later."
Dixon’s clinic is completely out of seasonal flu vaccines and he is still waiting for H1N1 vaccines.
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And it’s not just health departments that are low on vaccines – pharmacies and private practices are noticing the shortage as well.
But so far there's no reason to panic.
Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said this week virtually all of the influenza spreading throughout the U.S. at this time is H1N1. And, unfortunately, a seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from the H1N1 strain.
"There’s almost no seasonal flu so far," he said. "We’ve seen a few strains here and there, but overwhelming H1N1 is the strain circulating and it continues to be very tightly matched with vaccine."
Despite the lack of seasonal flu circulating, there has been an unprecedented demand for the seasonal flu vaccine this year, Frieden said.
So far the government has shipped 90 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine to states and Frieden said the CDC expects as many as 114 million Americans to get the seasonal flu shot this year.
So far this season, approximately 85 million Americans have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu this year, CDC spokesman David Daigle told the New York Times.
Last year, about 103 million Americans were vaccinated all flu season, which usually ends in May.
Annually, 36,000 Americans die from the seasonal flu.
The Wood County, Toledo-Lucas County and Fulton County Health Departments in Ohio are all out of seasonal flu vaccines, according to a report in the Toledo Blade.
"It's really become more of a concern," Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department told the Toledo Blade.