Heavy demand is creating shortages of seasonal flu vaccine in some areas, but more vaccine supplies will be coming soon, Kentucky health officials said Tuesday.
Officials at the University of Kentucky Hospital said that they essentially are out of seasonal flu vaccine and probably will cancel a vaccine clinic planned for next week.
However, Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Fayette County Health Department, said Tuesday that the department still has seasonal flu vaccine on hand. He urged members of the public to check before going to a doctors' office or to a clinic to seek seasonal flu vaccinations.
Health officials stress that there is plenty of time to get a vaccination because seasonal flu usually doesn't start to peak in Kentucky until around the holidays.
The first shipments of H1N1 flu vaccine — in nasal spray form — are expected in Kentucky later this week. The vaccine will be reserved for priority groups: health care workers under age 50; caregivers and people under age 50 in the home who have close contract with small children; and children and young adults ages 2 through 24.
Distribution of H1N1 to the general public is expected to start later this month.
Meanwhile, WLEX-TV on Tuesday reported another possible H1N1 flu-related death in Lexington. However, state and Fayette County health officials said they had no confirmation on the case.
Health officials blame seasonal flu vaccine shortages on unexpectedly high demand, and the fact that only relatively small amounts of the vaccine have reached Kentucky thus far. Authorities think demand is being sparked mainly by news reports about the growing number of H1N1 flu cases.
"Even though people may know that the seasonal flu vaccine doesn't protect against H1N1, they want to take it anyway," said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department for Public Health. "There are some shortages here and there, but they should ease in the next few weeks as more shipments come in."
Hall said the health department also has heard that some Fayette County health providers may be running low on Tamiflu, the antiviral drug that in some cases can ease flu symptoms and shorten the course of the disease. The drug should be given within 48 hours after symptoms appear.
Bond, the state health department spokeswoman, said supplies of the Tamiflu formulation designed for children have run low in some places. But she said she was unaware of any widespread shortages.
According to Bond, the state has distributed extra supplies of Tamiflu to county health departments around Kentucky, which could be made available if needed.