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Published: Friday, 12/22/2000

Better way sought to distribute flu vaccine

The Toledo-Lucas County health department has formed an advisory group to look at better ways of distributing adult vaccinations, including the flu vaccine that was in short supply this year.

The Adult Immunization Consortium is comprised of health department representatives and members from area health providers. Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, said yesterday that the consortium had its first meeting earlier this week.

Dr. Grossman said he's not sure how many people eventually will be in the group, but letters have been sent to dozens of health-related businesses.

He said the group hopes to develop recommendations and policies that anyone providing adult vaccinations in Lucas County could agree to. One goal would be to set up a registry for places that don't track the immunization records of patients.

He said one concern is that those providing flu shots or other vaccinations at businesses often don't keep track of a patient's shot record.

Dr. Grossman said health department officials had the idea for forming the consortium for some time, but this year's shortage of vaccine pushed them to take action.

Many doctors in Lucas County and across the country were angry this year that they didn't have flu vaccines to give to their high-risk patients. Even more upsetting to them was the fact that those providing flu shots in grocery stores had vaccine and didn't turn away individuals who were not high risk.

“It's chaos now,” Dr. Grossman said of the way flu vaccine distribution is handled.

Michele Patton, administrator for Interim HealthCare, said she welcomes Dr. Grossman's suggestions. Perrysburg-based Interim HealthCare provided flu shots in area Kroger stores.

It, along with its competitor Visiting Nurse (which provides flu shots in area Food Town stores and The Pharms), were criticized by some doctors in the community about how they handle flu shots. Dr. Grossman said both Visiting Nurse and Interim HealthCare will be invited to join the group.

Problems in the manufacture of this year's vaccine caused headaches at doctors' offices across the country, including Toledo. Most doctors received their supply of flu vaccine months later than normal. Some only received partial shipments. The shortage eased earlier this month, but the problems illustrated that there should be a better way of handling a shortage, Dr. Grossman said.

There are no laws that control who distributes vaccinations, and Dr. Grossman said neither the health department nor the advisory group would recommend regulations regarding distribution.

But he said he hopes the group can come up with guidelines local providers of vaccinations can accept. The group also might be able to help inform the best places to get vaccinations if another shortage occurs, he said.

- LUKE SHOCKMAN



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