GW’s flu vaccines delayed, officials unsure when they will arrive

Student Health Services has postponed its annual flu shot clinics because it has not yet received enough vaccines.

The University’s regular flu shot provider, Medical Faculty Associates Pharmacy, did not supply any vaccines this year. A small shipment of 200 flu shots was received Tuesday night from the company Chiron, said Dr. Isabel Goldenberg, director of Student Health Services.

For the past several years the University has held flu shot clinics in Thurston Hall, the Marvin Center and on the Mount Vernon Campus in late October or the beginning of November. Barbara Porter, assistant vice president for media, marketing and communications for the GW Medical Center, said she doesn’t know when the clinics will be held this year, though she stressed they are not canceled.

“The University administration is really concerned that we get the vaccines,” Goldenberg said. “We are working on getting more vaccines, we are calling everybody, and we are on the waiting lists of several other providers.”

Goldenberg said national health experts sent flu vaccines to areas they worried the flu could spread to the most easily.

“Some shipments were sent to the areas of the country that were affected by the hurricanes, areas where they felt that there was a possibility of an outbreak,” Goldenberg said.

Right now, students receiving shots include those who had called ahead previously and have a recommendation or a history of medical problems, as well as first responders such as EMeRG workers.

Last year there was a shortage of flu vaccines, and the clinic was only able to administer about 350 vaccines.

“This year we have 200, and as soon as we get more, we will put ads in the newspapers and try to give them to the community,” Goldenberg said.

The delay of the flu shot clinics does not pose a serious medical threat, Goldenberg said.

“Usually outbreaks of the flu are in February,” Goldenberg said. “Even if we do it late in December, it will protect students during the peak of the flu season.”

If no vaccines are available Goldenberg recommends washing hands frequently as the best way for students to prevent contracting the flu.

“When a student gets sick, they shouldn’t attend classes, they should stay in their dorms, and they should come to Student Health Services or go to the emergency room,” Goldenberg said. “Try to stay isolated from the rest of the community.”

Goldenberg said vaccines may be available now through personal physicians, or at other clinic locations including Costco in Virginia. Just a few CVS pharmacies in the District are offering flu shots.

The delay in GW’s flu shot clinics comes in the wake of President George W. Bush’s announcement of a $7.1 billion pandemic influenza outbreak plan in case deadly strains of the virus spread in the United States. One deadly strand, the avian flu, has already claimed the lives of five Indonesians.

The plan, according to a Nov. 2 Washington Post article, suggests who should have priority in receiving the flu vaccine in case of a pandemic, including the elderly and very young or chronically ill, and medical workers.

The flu vaccine works by taking small parts of different strains of the flu virus and putting them together into a serum for injection. When injected into a person’s body it stimulates an immune response, and the body develops antibodies against the virus. When the person is later exposed to the virus, the antibodies will recognize it and mount a response to ward off infection.

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