Flu season reaches winter peak

St. John’s office of health services is advising members of the University community to get a flu shot.

“It takes 10 days for the body to create antibodies against the influenza virus,” said Pauline Tummino, director of health services on the Queens campus. “If you get the flu shot soon, there’s still time for it to work before the [flu] season peaks.”

Although the flu vaccine shortage of the 2004-2005 flu season is over, many people around the country are still finding it difficult to get vaccinated this year. The shortage, which began in Oct. 2004 when the world’s number two influenza vaccine manufacturer was shut down, left thousands of people of all ages vulnerable to the disease.

The California-based Chiron Corporation, which makes more than half of the flu vaccine used in the United States, had its license revoked for three months by British health officials after they encountered problems with the vaccine manufacturing plant in Liverpool, England.

Although other companies increased their manufacturing supply they were still not able to accommodate the millions of Americans in need of the vaccine.

This year the Chiron Corporation has increased its production in hopes of avoid ing another shortage, however many people are still complaining and angered at the poor distribution of the vaccine around the country.

The influenza vaccine is commonly given in hospitals, health clinics, and doctor’s offices.

Tummino believes that the currently perceived shortage might be occurring because vaccine manufactures are releasing large portions of it to large health clinics in hopes of reaching a wider group of people. As a result, a limited supply of the vaccine is available to hospitals and other health providers.

Despite the FDA’s statement in Oct. 2005, that it would be “committed to working with all of the influenza vaccine manufacturers to expedite product lot release and availability of vaccine,” thousands of people have yet to receive the vaccine.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a statement in December alerting the public to an increase in flu activity throughout New York City. They urged everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible. It also advised those citizens who could not find the vaccine at their local health care provider or who could not receive the vaccine because of insurance issues to visit one of the city’s free walk-in immunization clinics. The clinics, which can be found in every borough, offer the flu shot free of charge and can be located easily by calling the city’s information hotline, 311.

Although no major increase of influenza has been recorded at St. John’s, health services urges students to be vaccinated. All students who experience flu-like symptoms are advised to drink plenty of fluids and if symptoms worsen or continue for a prolonged period of time to visit the health office, which offers its services free of charge.