Plan to acquire large quantities of Canadian flu vaccine falls through

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(Host) Vermont’s health commissioner says a plan to bring more than 150,000 doses of flu vaccine to Vermont from Canada has fallen through. But the state does hope to receive a small stock of vaccine from Canada in the next two months.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration was hoping to get federal approval to import the flu vaccine from a company in Quebec. The idea was to bring 1.2 million doses into this country, of which 160,000 would be diverted to Vermont.

In the last few weeks, dozens of states have pursued similar plans to import flu vaccine from Canadian and European sources and this national interest has put the Vermont plan on hold until all the proposals can be evaluated.

Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris says it’s likely that the Quebec flu vaccine will be brought into this country by January but Vermont’s share of this new supply will probably be limited to 5,000 doses:

(Jarris) “Every state is interested and for that reason the federal government really has stepped in and the FDA is working on inspecting the plants that they were produced in – either in Canada or in Europe. So I believe we will see it but not before December or January. It will have to be shared across the states but we’re anticipating that it probably will do quite a bit toward meeting our needs the thousands of doses we will get will be very helpful.”

(Kinzel) Jarris says a flu shot in January can still be effective:

(Jarris) “It takes about two weeks after you get a flu shot for it to become effective so typically we try to get that flu in people’s arms in the November, early December time frame. So it is late. On the other hand, we don’t know what this year’s flu season will look like. If this year’s flu season were to hit in late January or February then it would be perfectly fine.”

(Kinzel) The State Health Department is holding flu clinics in every county of the state on Thursday for individuals who are considered to be in a high risk group. These groups include adults with one or more chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or a weakened immune system; frail Vermonters over the age of 65; and pregnant women:

(Jarris) “We do expect to get about 16,000 more doses after that so if there is someone who can’t make it to that flu clinic for whatever reason there will be opportunities in the future. And adding that 16,000 on that we expect to get over the next month to the vaccine we have now, I think we’re well on our way to meeting the needs of those with the highest risk.”

(Kinzel) Anyone who has a question about Thursday’s flu clinic program is encouraged to call the Health Department toll free at (800) 695-0022.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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