Residents need flu vaccine to avoid potential deadly outbreaks, ASCP warns

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The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists is calling on all long-term care residents to have access to flu vaccines during the current shortage to avoid deadly epidemics within facilities.

Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to influenza, due to their age, frailty and close contact with others their age, the ASCP said. Influenza is the fifth-leading cause of death among those aged 65 and older.

During an influenza vaccine shortage several years ago, many nursing home facilities were unable to obtain enough vaccines for their residents, despite the voluntary rationing system called for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ASCP warned in a letter to the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The CDC has called for a similar rationing system during this 2004 shortage because major U.S. supplier Chiron Corporation announced it would be unable to produce 46 to 48 million doses, half the supply officials expected to treat Americans this year.

Meanwhile, officials are scrambling to procure other sources for the vaccine. However, many U.S. providers have agreements with Chiron that could prevent them from obtaining the flu vaccine from other leading supplier Aventis.