McKinley issues flu shots for few

By Dan Shah

In response to the national shortage of flu vaccines last year, the University, as well as pharmacies and hospitals in Champaign and Urbana, are being cautious when giving flu shots to prevent another shortage.

McKinley Health Center will be giving flu shots to high-risk patients until Oct. 24 and will not have clinics until the same day.

“At this point, we are providing for our high-risk patients,” said Judy Rubenacker, McKinley’s public affairs coordinator for vaccines. “The Center for Disease Control asks for the non-high-risk public (to get their shots) after the 24. We only really have a limited supply.”

The list of qualifications for being a high-risk patient is available on the McKinley Web site, Rubenacker said. Some of the qualifications include being over the age of 65, long-term health problems and working with hands-on patient care as a healthcare employee. The shots are free to students paying for health services at McKinley.

The reason for the national shortage last year and precautions this year has to do with the vaccine suppliers.

“There are three manufacturers that can distribute in the United States,” said Dwayne Robinson, McKinley’s pharmacy supervisor. “Of the three, only two have approval from the (Food and Drug Administration) to distribute. The third manufacturer is still in limbo in terms of when they are releasing.” The pharmacy had placed an order for 10,000 doses from two manufacturers, but thus far has only received part of that order, Robinson said.

The exact reason a third manufacturer, Chiron, is delayed is not known, Robinson said.

“There could be a number of reasons for delaying the release in terms of FDA standards,” he said.

It is not just Champaign and Urbana that are solely providing to high-risk patients until Oct. 24.

“The (Center for Disease Control) wanted to approach the situation cautiously because of the major shortage last year until they know that there is enough for the high-risk patients,” Robinson said.

Carol Nelson, administrative aide for the College of Business, arranged for McKinley to hold a flu clinic at Wohlers Hall. For the past several years, it has been convenient and easy for faculty, staff and students in the College of Business to obtain flu shots. However, Wohlers Hall cannot hold a similar clinic this year.

“In 2003, approximately 500 people received flu shots at (Wohlers),” Nelson said. “Last year, there was a nationwide flu vaccine shortage so McKinley did not schedule any flu clinics.”

The availability of flu vaccines is still uncertain, and therefore, this year it is unlikely that flu clinics will be scheduled for the convenience of the University community, Nelson said.

“The state of Illinois has limited the quantity that will be given free of charge to University faculty and staff,” she added.

Carle Clinic, according to its Web site, is having several upcoming flu clinics at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 1500 N. Lincoln Ave. Urbana, and at the First Baptist Church in Savoy, 1602 S. Prospect Ave. These clinics are offered to high-risk people in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines. Flu shots are $25 at Carle Clinic.

An Urbana Walgreen’s, 1809A S. Philo Rd., will have a flu clinic on Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Shots will be administered by a nurse.

“If there is a young person who is not high-risk, they might get turned away before Oct. 24,” said Joe Bush, senior pharmacist at the Urbana Walgreen’s. “They should check the Web site for more info.”

For more information pertaining to the release date for the non-high-risk public as well as qualifications for being a high-risk individual, visit www.cdc.gov, www.carle.com, www.mckinley.uiuc.edu and www.walgreens.com