UCSB Student Health Service has only received half of the 1,800 doses of flu vaccine it originally ordered due to a recent contamination of biopharmaceutical manufacturer Chiron Corporation’s flu vaccine doses.
Director of Student Health Service (SHS) Cindy Bowers said the on-campus clinic received only 900 doses from a different manufacturer, Aventis Pasteur, as opposed to last year’s 1,600 doses total. She said SHS anticipates only needing about 600 doses, with the remaining 300 going to health clinics around the county that are in need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and individual counties’ health departments have produced guidelines to regulate the distribution of the flu vaccine. Student Health, in accordance with CDC and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. (SBCPHD) guidelines, is only treating those students, faculty and staff who fall into the “high-risk” categories.
Bowers said the main high-risk categories include those with chronic illnesses, pregnant women, those who are caring for children less than six months of age, healthcare and emergency workers, and those who are age 75 or older.
“We have enough vaccines for all UCSB students, faculty and staff in high-risk groups, such as people with chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma,” she said. “We sent an e-mail to [all students] in our records who are considered high-risk.”
Student Health has been administrating the $10 vaccine to high-risk patients since the beginning of October in anticipation of flu season, which usually starts in middle or late November and could continue into March, Bowers said. Students who do not fit into the high-risk categories can follow Student Health’s guidelines for flu prevention.
“Right now we’re fussing over getting the vaccines done, and then I’ll work on getting information out to folks,” Bowers said. “For the educational campaign, I’ll make a program and we’ll try to [disseminate the information] as best we can into all the health systems that are already put in place.”
Though flu vaccines are reserved for high-risk patients this year, Bowers said the prescription medication Flumadine could reduce the duration and severity of the flu if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. In addition, good hygiene practices such as washing hands and covering the mouth when sneezing can be employed to prevent the spread of the flu.
“The most important thing is frequent hand-washing,” Bowers said. “Also, for students, especially, not sharing cups or silverware with anyone [is important], though I understand it happens a lot at parties.”
Some large health clinics in the county, such as Sansum-Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic, ordered all 22,000 doses of their flu vaccine from Chiron Corp. and did not receive any of them, said Michele Mickiewicz, SBCPHD deputy director for administration.
“We’re doing an inventory to see who has the vaccine and how much we’ll need,” she said. “What [clinics] have left we’re pooling and redistributing to people who don’t have any.”
The federal government currently is working with Aventis to redistribute the limited supplies of flu vaccinations, but Mickiewicz said she does not expect to get a significant number of doses for use in the county.
“Our plan is to get shots out to people at the highest risk before flu season is upon us,” Mickiewicz said.
Bower said there is no way of predicting the severity of this year’s flu season.
“There have been no major reports of the flu yet, but the strains out there seem to be covered in the vaccine,” she said. “Predicting [flu season] is like trying to predict the weather.”