Leftover flu shots tossed out every year, some wonder why | SierraSun.com

Leftover flu shots tossed out every year, some wonder why

Millions of doses of flu vaccine will expire this summer and will be thrown out, unsold, in part because of a mild flu season this year.

More than 10 million of a record 110 million doses of the flu vaccine produced will be destroyed as part of an annual service to make sure Americans get the most up-to-date vaccine. The June 30 expiration date is determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow vaccine suppliers to alter the recipe every year to include the three strains of flu causing the most cases.

Tahoe Forest Hospital reported its first case of the flu in early February, much later than the usual reports in December or January, and now area cases are on the decline, said Debra Cooper, an office manager with the Tahoe Forest Hospital Health Clinic.

Local health clinics seemed to anticipate the amount of this year’s supply of flu vaccine doses they would need just about right.

Tahoe Forest Hospital Health Clinic ordered about 1,300 doses of the vaccine this year and have only about five left, Cooper said.

The hospital’s flu vaccine supply changes every year, dependent upon evaluation of the past year’s need in the community, she said.

Placer County was one of the more successful counties in the distribution of the flu vaccine this year, said Robert Long, manager of Placer County Community Clinics. Close to 6,000 doses were allotted by the state for Placer County residents, including those on the North Shore, and there’s not much left, he said.

Health clinics are under state mandate to offer the flu vaccine until June 30 and then destroy whatever remains, but some argue that the leftover doses could still be used.

Vaccine degrades very slowly and not into anything harmful, according to Dr. Peter Patriarca, a scientist who formerly worked for vaccine maker MedImmune Inc. and once headed the FDA’s vaccine division. Patriarca said most vaccines would be stable for another year or two years, and some as long as three or four.

“What they don’t want to have happen is people inadvertently getting vaccinated with last year’s vaccine because it will not be as effective since it targets older strains,” Patriarca told the Associated Press.

Placer County Community Clinics usually receive a new shipment of doses by September, which leaves a gap in the vaccine supply during the summer months, but that time period isn’t during the height of the flu season, Long said.

“The flu has to culture. It has to grow in order to decide what strands will be the primary versions of the virus,” Cooper said.

While health clinics will administer the vaccine until June, the possibility that a person will benefit from getting a flu shot at this point in time is unlikely, Cooper said.

” The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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