Flu shots slowly coming available | AspenTimes.com

Flu shots slowly coming available

Jeremy Heiman

Flu shots have been slow to hit the streets this fall, but they are now available to Aspen-area residents facing the greatest risk.

Yvonne Hernandez, director of Community Health Services, said the first flu shots have now been administered to elderly people in the community. She said she expects shipments of flu vaccine will eventually meet the needs of everyone who wants a shot. The shots are also available from some local physicians.

Generally, the vaccine arrives in October, Hernandez said, but this year it has been slow to arrive.

Officials at Wyeth-Ayerst, the manufacturer of the vaccine, have told Hernandez that Community Health Services should be receiving a shipment of flu vaccine every week for the next five weeks, she said.

This week, Hernandez said, shots are being given at the Pitkin County Senior Center to residents 65 and older and seniors with chronic illnesses such as heart, liver or respiratory problems or diabetes. Next week, she hopes to concentrate on seniors 50 and over and individuals of any age with chronic diseases.

Hernandez said if the scheduled shipment arrives the week of Dec. 4, she hopes to make flu shots available to the general public, as long as the supply lasts. But it’s not a sure thing.

“It’s all contingent on whether I get the vaccine or not,” Hernandez said.

Shots will be available at Community Health Services, located on Castle Creek just south of Aspen Valley Hospital, from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The clinic will be open for additional walk-in hours Mondays from 9 to 10 a.m., Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m. Neither appointments nor advance notice are necessary, but members of the general public must wait until priority clients have been served.

Community Health Services will arrange to give flu shots at any local workplace where more than 15 people want to receive them, Hernandez said.

Aspen, as a community, has a healthy population but is vulnerable to contagious diseases because of the tourist industry.

“Our biggest risk here is we get international travelers,” Hernandez said.

The strain of influenza virus expected to infect Americans this year is known as the Panama strain. Hernandez said she hasn’t heard if this strain is expected to be a particularly tough one to combat. She said Aspen Valley Hospital has not diagnosed any cases of flu yet this season.

Arrival of the flu vaccine has been delayed this year because laboratory technicians were at first unable to get the Panama strain to grow in the laboratory. Early production of the vaccine was delayed, and that caused a delay in the approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency which must OK all new drugs, Hernandez said.

For more information, call your doctor or Community Health Services, 920-5420.

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