COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – As flu season approaches, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is responding to vaccine shipping delays that have made it difficult for some families to the state to get the flu shot for their children.
Various statewide providers, including pediatricians’ offices, have not received flu vaccine shipments through the federally funded Children’s Vaccine Program (VFC). Children under 18 who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, Native American, or Alaska Native are eligible for the VFC program.
“DHEC is aware of the burden it places on providers if they are late,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC director of public health. “While they are beyond our control, we are certainly working with suppliers to mitigate delays like the ones we have seen this year.”
Traxler said two main issues were causing the delay.
So far, DHEC has received only small quantities of VFC flu vaccine, not enough to send to all suppliers.
According to the agency, BTV vaccines are generally allocated in smaller quantities than other vaccines.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control halted vaccine shipments to states, including South Carolina, that were in Hurricane Ian’s path.
Those shipments have resumed, and DHEC expects most suppliers to receive their HCV flu shots by the end of the week.
DHEC is not responsible for shipping vaccines, only placing orders.
Traxler said there have been other significant delays in getting the flu shot to suppliers or pharmacies.
Colombia-based pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse expressed frustration that DHEC promoted the flu vaccine on its social media pages when the VFC flu shots had not been delivered.
“I want to be able to give the vaccine to my patients, I want my practice to be able to promote it, and as soon as we have all of our vaccines, I will promote it,” she said. “But we have to make sure we actually have the vaccine to be able to do that.”
Greenhouse has spoken to several families in her office who want to get their children vaccinated against the flu, but have been unable to do so so far.
The DHEC allows pediatric practices and other providers to borrow from the private stock of vaccines they have purchased for use in the VFC program.
Greenhouse said it was a cumbersome process, but his office might consider going that route while waiting for HCV vaccine shipments.
“A lot of pediatricians just wouldn’t have the time or the staff to do that,” she said.
Traxler also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot and said Australia’s harsh flu season could be a sign of winter to come.
“We’re certainly concerned about the potential based on what we’ve seen in the southern hemisphere with their flu season as well as what we’re already seeing in terms of flu activity in South Carolina,” she said. declared. “We fear that this flu season will be much worse than what we have been used to for the past two years.”
Young children, older adults and those who are immunocompromised, as well as people who live with people in these categories, should prioritize the flu shot, Traxler said.
DHEC encourages South Carolinians to get their flu shot at some point before the end of October, as that is the optimal window to build immunity for the winter.
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