THURSDAY, Oct. 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- U.S. health officials said Thursday they have secured an additional 1 million doses of FluMist, a nasal spray flu vaccine.
This increases the total flu vaccine supply this year to 61 million doses, 3 million of which is in the form of a nasal spray that is approved for healthy people aged 5 to 49.
At a Thursday evening news conference, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said federal officials were doing everything possible to ready the nation for the coming flu season: "The nation is prepared to respond should a flu pandemic strike."
Thompson was joined by David Mott, president and CEO of MedImmune, which manufactures FluMist.
Mott said the price would be $16 and $23 for FluMist, versus last year's cost of $46 per vaccine.
The nation's vaccine supply this year is being assembled almost on a piece-meal basis. On Tuesday, the government announced it had rounded up an additional 2.6 million doses of injectable vaccine, bringing that total to 58 million doses.
Despite the recent incremental advances, the total is still far short of the 48 million lost when British authorities suspended the manufacturing license of Chiron Corp., a major flu vaccine supplier, earlier this month.
The British decision left the United States solely dependent on a second manufacturer, Aventis Pasteur, for its supply of injectable flu vaccine.
At the news conference, Thompson also stressed the existence of enough antiviral medications to treat tens of millions of people.
Federal officials are also pursuing other avenues to secure more vaccines, he said.
"We're talking to the Canadian government to see about the possibility of a couple million more doses before the end of the year," Thompson said. "We're also working with other companies. Hopefully, we will have some other news in the future."
Thompson also reiterated his earlier message that seniors should not stand in long lines to get the vaccine.
"Aventis is going to be shipping up to 3 million doses each week for the next seven weeks to health-care providers around the country," he said. "We are working with Aventis to target places that serve high-priority individuals," such as hospitals and nursing homes. Aventis' additional 2.6 million doses will become available in January.
Public health officials are still asking that only people in priority categories receive a flu shot, including all children aged 6 to 23 months; adults 65 and older; persons aged 2 to 64 with underlying medical conditions; women who will be pregnant during the flu season; residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities; and health-care workers.
"We need to get the flu vaccine to those who need it most. If you're not in a priority group for injectable vaccine, please step aside," Thompson said.
Thompson also addressed Chiron's recent admission that it might not be able to supply vaccine for next year's flu season. "We are working with Chiron in order to modernize their plants," Thompson said. "That was a legal thing they had to say."
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease COntrol and Prevention for more on the flu and the vaccine shortage.