By David A. Lieb, Associated Press Writer
The largest U.S. supplier of seasonal flu vaccines said it is running behind on shipping those vaccines — partly because of the crunch to produce millions of doses of the swine flu vaccine.
The pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur said it has shipped more than half of the 50.5 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine order by U.S. health care providers. But the company has sent notices to customers indicating that additional doses may be delayed.
Company spokeswoman Donna Cary said it could be November before some customers get the rest of their orders.
The delay already has forced some doctor's offices to turn away parents seeking season flu vaccines for their infants and toddlers and caused some public health offices to cancel scheduled community vaccination clinics.
"We understand it does create an inconvenience for some people who wanted to hold their seasonal influenza campaigns earlier," Cary said. "We apologize for that, but we're doing every thing we can."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sanofi Pasteur had alerted it a while ago that it may need to delay shipments, but the federal agency did not learn the details until Thursday, said spokesman Tom Skinner.The delay isn't surprising nor cause for big concern, Skinner said, because about 70 million of the nation's expected 114 million doses already have been delivered and vaccinations started unusually early. October is the traditional time when seasonal flu vaccine clinics open.
"Vaccine, while it's coming out, may not be coming out to some of the providers when they thought they were going to get it," Skinner said. But, "it's coming, and people may have to be patient and persistent in inquiring about when they can get it."
Right now, the swine flu is the dominant virus. And while seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, that virus usually peaks in January or later.