County short on seasonal flu vaccines

San Luis Obispo County health care providers say they have received fewer seasonal flu vaccines than expected so far this year as manufacturers focus efforts on producing vaccines for the swine flu.

An annual North County health fair at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton scheduled for Nov. 7 was canceled because of the hospital’s uncertainty about vaccine supply.

Twin Cities spokeswoman Faye Fraser said the hospital asked for 2,000 flu vaccines last month but received just 1,200 doses and can’t be certain about future orders.

At past events, the North County health fair attracted hundreds of seniors seeking vaccines for seasonal flu while they also received exams checking vision, blood pressure and fitness.

Production of seasonal flu vaccines has slowed as manufacturers devote time and resources toward developing a vaccine for swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, local health officials say.

The county Public Health Department already has a small supply of H1N1 vaccines, Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said.

The department is expecting 40,000 H1N1 doses to arrive by the end of October, Borenstein said.

Despite the decreased supply of seasonal flu vaccines this year, immunizations still are being offered throughout the county at various locations — including hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies.

Dates and locations of flu shot clinics are available at www.findaflushot.com.

The Paso Robles Senior Center and Atascadero City Hall also have lists of flu clinics available in North County.

The county already has administered 3,200 flu shots. The agency is waiting on an additional order of 1,600 vaccines from the state, but of those only 300 doses will remain after doses obtained from local health care providers are paid back, Borenstein said.

She said state officials initially indicated an effort to provide flu vaccines earlier in the season compared with past years, but the slowdown in production has curbed plans.

Flu shots have been given at local hospitals to those who are frequently in contact with patients who are at high risk of contracting the flu, as well as to at-risk patients.

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Twin Cities and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital each work with a Temecula-based distributor, FFF Enterprises, to get flu immunizations.

Sierra Vista hoped to receive more flu vaccines by this time of year; it has received 500 doses so far and officials are expecting 2,000 more by the end of October, hospital spokesman Ron Yukelson said.

Yukelson said that each year the hospital provides about 1,200 free vaccinations to the community though its annual flu clinic and to local public safety and service organizations, and plans to do so again this year based on supply.

Twin Cities also is expecting a shipment of flu shots at the end of October and plans to hold community clinics to serve the public, hospital officials said.

At Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, about 150 vaccines remain for a health fair set from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 24. Vaccines will be offered for free on a first-come, first-served basis, and a small donation is suggested.

The South County hospital hasn’t administered as many shots to local field workers as it traditionally has done because of vaccine shortages.

The hospital also has seen a shortfall in its flu immunization orders.