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With no sign of last year's shortages, L.A. County health official urges early flu vaccination

September 16, 2010 |  9:00 am

In sharp contrast to last year's flu season, Los Angeles has plentiful supplies of the flu vaccine on hand and the public should get vaccinated early, the county’s top health official said this week.

“That’s good news. It’s certainly here, and there’s certainly a lot of offices that have it,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Federal officials strongly recommend that anyone 6 months of age or older receive a flu shot or nasal mist as soon as they can. 

Last year, many who sought to be vaccinated instead found long lines, confusion about the need to get two vaccinations, one for H1N1 and one for seasonal flu, and frustration as vaccine shortages amid the spread of H1N1 caused a frenzy.

This fall’s supply is far more robust and pharmacies are already broadcasting advertisements about flu shots on the radio. Flu cases typically peak in January or February but can continue into May, according to federal health officials.

One shot this year protects against the H1N1 strain, previously referred to as swine flu, as well as two other strains. It is the same mix that was used in the Southern Hemisphere for the winter season there. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is likely that H1N1 will continue spreading along with other strains this fall and winter.

Fielding said it’s important to get a flu shot this fall even if you got one last year.

“It doesn’t last forever. One of the issues with the flu vaccine, it loses its potency -– the impact of it … within a year, so you really need to get it replaced,” Fielding said.

There is a stronger vaccine for those over age 65 to improve their immune response, Fielding said.

For people who do not have health insurance, starting next month Los Angeles County will establish flu inoculation clinics.

So far, Fielding said there have been no reports of increased levels of flu or flu-like illnesses in the county.

California’s state epidemiologist is scheduled to give a news briefing at 11 a.m. Thursday in Sacramento. The topics to be discussed include the upcoming flu season, immunization data and the whooping cough epidemic.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Booster Shots:  AMA, CDC, March of Dimes and others urge pregnant women to get flu shots