ANNAPOLIS – Some Maryland county health departments are sharing their scarce flu vaccines to get the shots to where they’re needed most.
“This is basically a team effort,” said Penny Borenstein, Howard County health officer.
Health officials across the state are working on a plan to reallocate the vaccines in response to a shortage for the upcoming flu season, said Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County public health officer.
As part of the initiative, Calvert County donated “about 600 doses” to Montgomery County for distribution to high-risk patients, Tillman said.
In addition, Howard County received “close to 1,800 doses,” Borenstein said, although she would not cite the source of the donations.
Because vaccines are limited, Montgomery County announced Wednesday it will hold a flu shot lottery starting Thursday.
County residents who fall in the priority group – including children between the ages of 6 and 23 months, adults over 65, pregnant women and children with chronic medical conditions – can sign up Thursday, Friday and Monday to receive vaccines by appointment. The drawing will be held next week, Tillman said.
The winners will be notified by Nov. 1, according to the Associated Press.
Montgomery County is one of many areas nationwide scrambling for flu vaccines after Chiron Corp., the British company that produces about half of the shots for the United States, was shut down because their doses were contaminated. Chiron was scheduled to distribute 46 to 48 million doses here this year.
The United States will still receive about 60 million vaccines, most of those from Aventis Pasteur, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Calvert County agreed to share vaccines with Montgomery County after a series of conference calls and will continue discussions until the problem is solved, said Tillman.
Calvert County didn’t order all its doses from Chiron and therefore received more vaccines than other Maryland areas, said Susan Ratterree, the county’s director of community health.
“We had been planning for vaccinations in schools across the county,” Ratterree said. “We had planned for a rather large vaccination program.”
Meanwhile, the CDC is developing a reallocation plan on the national level.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other state health departments are working with the CDC on a plan to distribute 22 million doses across the country, said CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant.
“The CDC is working to determine where some of the gaps are,” Grant said.
One part of the plan calls for the distribution of 14 million doses to hospitals, long-term care facilities and other high-risk areas.
The CDC also plans to store 4 million doses in the national stockpile and send 4 million to health departments that need them the most.
“How much of that will Maryland receive?” asked Greg Reed, program manager for the Maryland Center for Immunization. “I have no idea because the CDC has not finished its final analysis.”
The public health sector distributed about 100,000 vaccinations in Maryland last year.