Federal officials scramble to alleviate flu vaccine shortage at nursing homes

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Federal officials scramble to alleviate flu vaccine shortage at nursing homes
Federal officials scramble to alleviate flu vaccine shortage at nursing homes

A nationwide shortage of seasonal flu vaccines at nursing homes has forced federal health officials to redirect existing supplies from chain pharmacies and supermarkets to facilities.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been working with pharmaceutical retailers to redistribute some of the vaccines to nursing homes, The New York Times reported. The elderly population is especially vulnerable to seasonal flu. Of the 36,000 Americans who die each year from influenza, 90% are seniors. Janice Zalen, director of special programs for the American Health Care Association, called the shortage in nursing homes “a very big problem,” according to the Times report.

A number of factors have contributed to the shortage in seasonal flu vaccines, the newspaper reported. Demand for a swine flu vaccine caused all five major vaccine producers to shift production away from seasonal flu shots. As a result, only 114 million doses were made—fewer than the 118 million produced last year. So far, only 95 million have been distributed. Fear over the swine flu has also led to an increase in demand for seasonal flu vaccines. Reports of price gouging have been on the rise, as well, though inconsistent laws in various states make it difficult to control, according to the Times.