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County suffers flu-shot setback

Far fewer Jackson County residents will get flu shots this year because the temporary closure of a vaccine manufacturer has halved the nation's seasonal vaccine supply.

U.S. health officials Tuesday announced the expected shortage of flu vaccine after the manufacturer of half the country's supply lost its license for three months.

Unspecified problems at the Liverpool, England, plant of Chiron Corp. means the company will provide no flu vaccine this year.

Chiron was to provide the largest portion of vaccine for Providence Medford Medical Center, which administers thousands of shots through various programs around the county. The hospital system was scrambling to place orders with other companies Tuesday, said public relations coordinator Lauren Van Sickle.

Asante, Ashland Community Hospital and Rogue Valley Manor also ordered vaccine from Chiron, said Hank Collins, director of Jackson County Health and Human Services. Many of those vaccines were bound for nursing homes, he said.

— It's the adult vaccine that we're going to be terribly short of, Collins said.

Partnering with Providence, the county planned to hold a massive immunization clinic this month at the Medford Armory. As many as 5,000 people could have received flu shots at the Oct. 27 event, which was up in the air as of Tuesday, Collins said.

The first of its kind, the clinic was organized to test the county's ability to perform mass vaccinations in the event of a bioterrorism emergency, Collins said. County health officials hoped to decide today whether they would go ahead with the project, he added.

The county health and human services department's supply of vaccine is not in jeopardy, Collins said. All 5,000 of the agency's doses previously were ordered from the French company Aventis Pasteur, he added.

However, county health officials will follow more stringent guidelines this year, only allowing flu vaccinations for children aged six months to two years, seniors over the age of 65 and those suffering from chronic illness, Collins said. The county also will stop giving shots this week, he said. The agency is still awaiting the arrival of about half of its vaccine supply, Collins added.

One thing I don't want people doing is running down here and flooding us, because we're not ready, he said.

The nationwide shortage also will not affect the availability of flu shots at the county's safety-net clinics in Ashland, Medford and White City, said Kristin Julber, site manager for Community Health Center in Ashland. But because Community Health Centers did not receive their supply of vaccine on time, an immunization clinic planned for this week at Hunter Park Center has been postponed until Oct. 25.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail