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Press Release

For Immediate Release: November 3, 2000
Contact: CDC Media Relations (404) 639-3286

Flu Season 2000-01


  1. Does the government control distribution of flu vaccine in the United States?

    No. All influenza vaccine for use in the United States is produced in the private sector, and more than 90% of influenza vaccine is distributed in the United States through private-sector distributors for use by health care providers. CDC has no control over the distribution of the private-sector influenza vaccine. Factors that may influence the time orders are received include the company that the order was placed with (some companies experienced more delay than others in producing vaccine), the date the order was received (companies tend to fill orders on a first-come, first-serve basis), contractual obligations (some companies may have contracts with penalties for nondelivery of vaccine) and the target group served. Companies have been urged to target providers who serve persons at high risk of complications from influenza.

    State health departments have purchased 2 million doses of influenza vaccine through a CDC-negotiated contract with two vaccine manufacturers. State and local health departments may purchase vaccine through other mechanisms as well.

    For this season only, CDC has contracted for the production of an additional 9 million doses of vaccine to help make sure there is enough vaccine for people at highest risk of complications from flu. CDC and the manufacturer of this additional vaccine have agreed on a process to prioritize orders from public and private providers for these doses. Highest priority will be given to distribute the 9 million doses to unvaccinated persons who are at highest risk for complications from influenza and health care workers who care for such persons.
  2. Have you received reports from doctors who say they have not yet received influenza vaccine for their high risk patients?

    Yes, we have heard reports like this and understand their concern. We want to reassure health care providers that a substantial amount of vaccine will be distributed later into the season than usual, including approximately 42 percent of this year's supply in November and 30 percent in December. Flu vaccine distribution nationwide will not be uniform this season. For that reason, we are urging those at high risk of complications from influenza to be patient but persistent in obtaining the vaccine as soon as it becomes available in their community. It is important to remember that it is still early in the season and the virus is not circulating widely.

    In addition, CDC is working with our partners, including the AMA, the AAP and the AAFP to ensure that information about flu vaccine distribution and ACIP recommendations for this season is distributed. We have also been in contact with vaccine manufacturers to relay our recommendations.
  3. There are reports that some vaccine distributors are breaking contracts with private providers in order to provide vaccine to mass immunizers, such as chain pharmacies or grocery stores-- and that in many instances, by doing this, they can charge more money for vaccine. What is CDC or DHHS doing about this practice?

    HHS and CDC strongly discourage practices that might divert influenza vaccine away from those who need it the most, or that would take advantage of the current situation to make additional profit at others expense. CDC and the ACIP recommend that when influenza vaccine first becomes available, vaccination efforts should be focused on persons at high risk for complications associated with influenza disease, and health care workers.
  4. What are you advising people at high risk for complications from influenza or providers to do if they are having difficulty obtaining vaccine?

    We are encouraging people at high risk to contact their health care providers, local public health clinics or state health departments to inquire about the availability of vaccine. They can also check media outlets such as newspapers, radio stations, or other public information sources for information on clinics in their community. CDC has established a website to help providers locate influenza vaccine in their area. The website is located at, and lists State Health Departments who have agreed to assist callers with information on providers at the local level who have reported they have surplus vaccine that they are willing to provide to other health care providers in need.
  5. What is CDC doing to minimize the impact of the delays?

    CDC has contracted for 9 million additional doses of vaccine to be produced this year which will be available in December. These additional doses will be used to help fill some gaps to vaccinate people at highest risk of complications of influenza. The vaccine can be obtained by contacting the company directly and information on how to apply to purchase from this vaccine supply is provided in the MMWR, dated November 3, 2000.
  6. What is CDC doing to educate providers and the public regarding the recommendations for this year's influenza season?

    CDC is implementing a public education and media campaign to inform those at high risk for influenza to get their influenza shots as soon as the vaccine becomes available and to educate those not at high risk about the importance of getting influenza vaccine later than usual in the flu season. CDC has also issued information to health care providers and organizations to help minimize the adverse impact of delays.
  7. There are many reports of grocery stores that are providing influenza vaccination to anyone willing to pay. What is CDC doing about this, given the recommendations that vaccine available in October should have been focused on persons at high risk for complications associated with influenza disease, and health care workers?

    CDC does not have any legal authority over these stores, and is relying on voluntary efforts from vaccine providers and members of the public to ensure that persons at highest risk are vaccinated first. CDC also encourages physicians who do not have sufficient vaccine yet for their high risk patients to refer them to sites in the community where vaccine is available, and encourages persons at high risk who cannot get it from their physician to seek other sites in their community where vaccine is available.
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