Making do with fewer flu shots has become a regular part of flu season, but Tuesday’s stunning announcement that the United States wouldn't get half its expected supply has caused more anguish than usual. This is the first time the government has asked healthy people to consider delaying or going entirely without the shot during the flu season.
U.S. health officials are urging flu shots first for babies and toddlers six to 23 months old, the elderly, people with chronic health problems, pregnant women and other specific risk groups and health care workers.
Doctor Adam Aponte is the medical director for North General Diagnostic and Treatment Center in New York. He says it's not the first year the nation has had a problem with supply.
Last year, it seemed the nation's 87 million doses of flu shots would be enough, but demand for flu shots quickly soared when the 2003-04 season started earlier than expected last October and the deaths of several children seemed to signal the start of a flu season many thought would be severe.
By December, nearly all the supplies of the flu vaccine were gone and shortages appeared around the country, prompting the government to once again ask the public to allow high-risk groups and health workers the chance to get immunized first.
This year the United States expected 100 million vaccine doses, but that plan was ripped apart by the surprise announcement by British health authorities to suspend the license at vaccine maker Chiron Corporation's Liverpool factory for unexplained reasons.
The company says it will not be providing the 46 million to 48 million vaccines expected for the U.S. market.