The $10 billion bug is about to arrive, and one segment of the population may not be prepared to fight it off.
Flu costs the U.S. approximately $10.4 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The costs include direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health claims that an additional $7 billion a year is lost with sick days and lost productivity.
Flu vaccines are readily available for most people, but a more powerful shot designed to enhance protection for seniors appears to be less widely available.
The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is designed and recommended for people 65 years and older because, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the higher antigen content provides “better protection” than the standard flu shot. However recent reports from Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts and Texas have noted that people have had difficulty finding retail and medical outlets offering the high dose option.
Drug company Sanofi Pasteur, which manufactures the vaccine, told the Boston Globe there is no shortage.
“Three-quarters of the vaccine supply has been shipped,” Monica Mercer, medical director at Sanofi Pasteur’s manufacturing site in Swiftwater, Pa., said.
According to the French drugmaker, the World Health Organization is to blame because it took more time than in the past to make a decision on which H3N2 virus strains would be included in the flu vaccines for North America. Then the Food and Drug Administration has to weigh in before it would license the drug to be manufactured. So a delay in production then delivery ensued.
In Colorado, The Denver Channel.com spoke with Kristin Holmes, a pharmacist and owner of Capitol Heights Pharmacy in the Mile High City about her supply of Fluzone.
"We are out right now," Holmes said. "We ordered 10 boxes back for our pre-order and have only received one so far.”
Representatives of Sanofi Pasteur have said shipments of the vaccine continue to be made to all parts of the country and will continue to ship until November, Mercer told the Globe.
FOX Business sought an update on this schedule — with November just days away — but the request for more information did not receive a response.
This year the CDC estimates nearly 170 million flu doses will be distributed in the U.S. this year by various manufacturers. Despite, the New England Journal of Medicine’s findings about the impact of Fluzone High Dose on seniors, the CDC does not specifically recommend the high dosage for those age 65 and above.