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No flu shot shortage

An increased demand for flu shots this year has put pressure on the area's vaccine supply. While there should be enough flu vaccines to go around this year, the number on hand is limited as health-care providers wait for more shipments. Upcoming ...

An increased demand for flu shots this year has put pressure on the area's vaccine supply.

While there should be enough flu vaccines to go around this year, the number on hand is limited as health-care providers wait for more shipments.

Upcoming flu shot clinics will restrict recipients to high-risk individuals, including people over age 65, those with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.

MeritCare has planned four days of clinics for at-risk individuals next week.

"Until we know when we're going to have additional vaccine, we don't know when we'll be able to open it up," said Joan Cook, MeritCare's infection control manager.

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Fargo Cass Public Health hopes to offer flu shots to the general public later this month, said Anne Hersch, immunization coordinator.

She stressed that this won't be too late.

"November is the typical time of year that we'd immunize even in a perfect year," Hersch said. "Really as long as the flu season is continuing, it's not too late."

It takes two weeks before exposure for a flu shot to be effective. The flu season peaks from December to early March.

Two cases of the flu have been reported in Cass County, the only ones in the state.

A record 3,752 flu cases were confirmed in North Dakota in 2004.

Problems with a flu vaccine maker last year led to a severe national shortage. Last year's limited supply and recent attention on a possible outbreak of avian flu are pointed to as reasons more people are seeking flu shots.

About 1,300 people turned out for flu shots at Dakota Clinic last week. Kay Larson, director of nursing, said 800 were expected.

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The large turnout caused the clinic to postpone a flu shot blitz planned for today.

"If we'd done a typical one we'd have been fine," Larson said. "It took a big number of them."

The clinic won't plan its next blitz until it receives more vaccine, Larson said.

Manufacturers are shipping partial orders to providers.

Heather Weaver, immunization program manager for the State Health Department, said it may take longer for providers to receive shipments if they are using a new manufacturer.

She does not expect there to be a scarcity of flu shots, though.

"At this time, we don't have any indication that we're going to have a shortage," Weaver said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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