Flu shots easily available, River Region says

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

[11/23/04]Unlike many health-care facilities across the nation, River Region Health System is now offering flu shots to the public and was largely unaffected by the shortage of flu vaccine.

“We’ve had no shortages, and we’ve had to turn no one away,” said Rachel Lowery, director of pharmacy for River Region. “And we’re one of the very few places like that in the country.”

With the exception of a shortage between receiving shipments, River Region has offered vaccinations to its employees and volunteers, to patients at its clinics and to high-risk patients when they are released from the hospital, Lowery said.

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River Region dominates the Vicksburg area health-care market through River Region Medical Center, The Street Clinic, Vicksburg Clinic and other facilities.

Vaccinations were also given through River Region’s Industrial Medicine at health fairs across the community for large industries, as today, when nearly 300 Vicksburg Warren School District employees received the shot at the district’s offices on Mission 66.

Shortages across the nation were first reported in October after the British plant of Chiron Corporation was shut down. Based in California, Chiron is a major U.S. supplier of the vaccine.

Since the nation’s supply was cut in half, health officials imposed limits on who should receive the vaccination. Priority was assigned to the elderly; those with long-term health problems including heart, kidney, lung or metabolic disease, blood disorders or weakened immune system; women who are pregnant; or those who care for or live with children who are 6 months or younger.

But River Region dodged the bullet for two reasons. Hospital officials ordered 20,000 doses early and because the supplier is a different company, Aventis Pharmaceuticals.

“We were very fortunate because we got most of our allotment in before the recall,” Lowery said. “Honestly, it’s a lot of luck.”

Lowery said the health system received 18,150 doses of the 20,000 it ordered.