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Friday, November 17, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Group Health short on flu shots

Seattle Times staff reporter

Local supplies of flu vaccine are limited enough that Group Health Cooperative has canceled clinics in Western Washington for the rest of November to reserve shots for high-risk patients.

"We're virtually out of vaccines," said Terri Campbell, Group Health spokeswoman. The cooperative usually receives 12,000 doses of vaccine each week but received none last week.

Group Health and other hospitals around the region are reserving vaccines in flu clinics for patients over 65, nursing-home residents, women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, and people with serious illnesses. The vaccines are available through private physicians.

Contrary to earlier reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no impending shortage, but delays in receiving the vaccines are causing problems for local hospitals.

In preparation for flu season, Group Health ordered more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine at $2.50 a dose directly from the manufacturer. Group Health has ordered another 20,000 doses sold on the open market at $13 each.

The state Department of Health, which ordered enough vaccine for 30,000 shots, received the shots on time, said Filiz Satir, a spokeswoman for the department.

At Harborview Medical Center, nearly 6,000 doses of vaccine failed to arrive in October. Medical staff have administered 3,800 shots, about half the number normally given by this time of year, said Cindi Brennan, assistant director of pharmacy at the hospital.

Harborview, which is limiting shots to high-risk people, will distribute the vaccine widely by mid-December, she said.

Flu clinics will continue at Swedish Medical Center, but "all the slots are full," spokesman Ed Boyle said.

Flu season runs from about October through April, usually peaking in January in Washington state.

Benjamin Shors' phone message number is 206-464-2920. His e-mail address is bshors@seattletimes.com.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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