Healthcare professionals are having trouble getting their hands on flu shots as one of the largest manufacturers in the nation faces an unexpected delay.

By Zee Krstic
September 06, 2019
PredragImages / Getty Images

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, most Americans are transitioning into fall schedules and back-to-school (and work!) routines—which includes visiting doctors for annual checkups and, in most cases, updated vaccines. Per advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans will choose to receive a flu shot by the end of October in order to avoid getting sick in the winter months. But if last year's flu season taught us anything, it's that the virus is often unpredictable and can spread in communities even outside of normal flu seasons. That's why many healthcare providers are expressing concern over a production delay that has pushed back the release of upwards of 70 million vaccines until the first week of October—if not later. 

According to an earlier report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of the largest manufacturers of flu vaccines in the nation has preemptively delayed its delivery schedule by four weeks. Sanofi Pasteur's products—which includes the Fluzone Quadrivalent and High-Dose vaccines, as well as the Flublok Quadrivalent—make up around 40 percent of the flu vaccine market in the United States, per CDC data cited by Medical Economics

Related: How to Clean Your Home to Avoid the Flu and Other Illnesses

Why are vaccines getting released later than usual, you might ask? It all has to do with the vaccine recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization; the latter is responsible for evaluating the latest strains of the flu virus before making recommendations to manufacturers, and it announced in March that it would need more time to evaluate the H3N2 strain across the Northern Hemisphere. That delay triggered a further delay for manufacturers who hope to get the vaccine to healthcare providers across the nation well before October's chilly weather arrives

A majority of vaccines have been shipped out to healthcare providers already, but some may be limited in availability—the American Academy of Pediatrics says that AstraZeneca's nasal mist flu vaccine, a popular alternative to the traditional shot for many children, could be in short supply in September. Reporters at WNBC New York share that many parents often opt for their children to receive a shot during their pre-school check-up. "We're going to create a list and prioritize the shots for our patients with a chronic illness or a young infant who might need it," Dr. Blair Guidera, a New York-based pediatrician, told WNBC.

If you have the option of receiving a flu shot at your doctor's office over the next few weeks and don't wish to return later in the season, you may want to get vaccinated earlier than usual. Getting vaccinated may help reduce the chances of being hospitalized due to the flu virus by upwards of 82 percent, according to CDC data. Even if you do contract the flu, the vaccine could help lessen the severity of your symptoms, which is a good reason to ask your healthcare provider about your vaccination schedule sooner rather than later.

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