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Long-Predicted Flu Shot Delay Being Felt Around the Nation

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"There certainly is a big demand and people have been extremely angry. I don't know if they are going elsewhere [to get a shot] or giving up," says Carolyn Greene, MPH, immunization program chief for the Vermont Department of Health. "There's a little bit of good news. The shipments are picking up, and we don't have flu [cases] confirmed ... We have to hang on to what little good news we have."

As for when those delays may be over, Greene says, "I have heard so many dates, so many promises that we just sit and wait. I've been told the 15th of December. If that is so, I would love it."

They're talking more like the end of this month for delay resolution in Maryland. "It's about what we expected," says Greg Reed, program manager for the Maryland Center for Immunization, Baltimore. "I was hoping it would've been resolved sooner but it's far from my worst-case scenario." Reed says 99% of the state's long-term care facilities (primarily nursing homes) have at least partial supplies of vaccines -- enough to cover patients at highest risk. "However, there's not enough vaccine floating around at this moment," he adds.

That goes for Kentucky, too.

Health officials there report small quantities coming in to counties across the state at a time when flu vaccination programs are usually finishing up. "Nobody has gotten their complete order yet," says state epidemiologist Glyn Caldwell, MD. "It leaves you concerned because you don't know what's going to happen, and you really don't have much you can do about it. We're just hoping we don't have a major outbreak."

And so far, that pattern seems to be holding nationwide. Less vaccine -- but very little flu.

"We monitor a number of different things," says Michael Hendry, DSc, chief of the respiratory virus section of the California Department of Health Services. "In-patient admissions for influenza and pneumonia, a number of sentinel physicians. We also monitor pharmacy data for use of antiviral [medications]."

The verdict in the nation's most populous state: 10 confirmed cases as of the end of November -- what health officials would characterize as "low-level, sporadic activity."

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