Berkeley residents who don’t want to wait for a flu shot will have to leave city limits to find an available vaccine.
The city has zero adult doses of the flu vaccine and only 90 doses for children, said City Health Officer Poki Namkung.
“We’re in a terrible situation,” she said.
Without an adequate supply, Namkung said, the city has canceled its immunization program for city workers and has not supplied local health clinics and nursing homes as in years past. Local employers, including UC, Bayer, and Barra have also canceled their employee vaccination programs due to the shortage.
Flu vaccines earmarked for Berkeley and all of California were destroyed last week after British regulators closed a Chiron Corp. plant in Liverpool citing manufacturing problems.
The Emeryville-based company was contracted to supply the United States with 48 million doses of the flu vaccine, including those earmarked for Berkeley, Alameda County and California.
Berkeley must now wait as the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) rations the country’s remaining 22.4 million doses that were manufactured by the other supplier, Aventis Pasteur.
Namkung said that officials at the CDC told her to expect about half of the city’s original order to arrive in six to eight weeks. Typically, she said, the city provides 2,200 vaccines.
Other traditional sources of the flu vaccine are also in short supply. Maxim Health Systems, which runs vaccination centers at Walgreen’s, Long’s and Costco, have canceled scheduled vaccinations in Berkeley and will stop offering the shot altogether on Saturday.
UC Berkeley’s Tang Health Center, which received 1,400 vaccines from Aventis, held its second and last public vaccination session Tuesday, said Dr. Peter Dietrich, medical director of University Health Services. The center still has some vaccinations, but is administering them on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Alta Bates Hospital also received vaccines from Aventis, but as is standard procedure for the hospital, it only ordered enough to inoculate staff, said hospital spokesperson Carolyn Kemp.
Berkeley Physician John Jones said his private medical group has been out of flu vaccines since they administered their first shipment of shots before the Chiron plant was shut down.
He said most local physicians had ordered from Chiron because it is a local company and charged less for the vaccines than Aventis.
In brighter news, he added that since the onset of flu season in the Bay Area doesn’t arrive until late January, the optimal time to get a shot is November. A shot administered in September or October can lose effectiveness towards the end of winter, he said, and is only recommended for people suffering severe medical conditions or traveling to colder climates.
For those who need a vaccination immediately, there are several local options. Kaiser, which ordered from Aventis, has a stockpile of 45,000 doses for its patients who qualify. The insurance giant will hold flu shot clinics at 3801 Howe St. in Oakland from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday.
The Safeway Pharmacy on Solano Avenue is scheduled to offer vaccinations to qualified patients on Oct. 25. However a store representative said the chain might cancel the clinic depending on availability.
Further from home shots will be available at Alameda Hospital in Alameda from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and at the Safeway at 2020 Market Street in San Francisco on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
At all clinics, only eligible patients will be entitled to a vaccination. To qualify a patient must be either be between six months and two years old, older than 65, pregnant, a resident in a nursing home or long-term care facility, a health care worker involved directly with patients, or have a chronic medical condition.