A shortage of flu vaccine has caused health officials to ask healthy Iowans between the ages of 2 and 65 to skip their flu shot for now.
Iowa Department of Public Health officials made the plea Tuesday after news that the nation's influenza vaccine supply had been cut in half.
The reason, they said, was that British health authorities unexpectedly shut down major flu-shot supplier Chiron Corp. for three months, citing problems at the Liverpool factory where Chiron makes its Fluvirin vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released revised recommendations this season to target those at highest risk from complications of the flu.
They include children 6 months to 23 months old and adults 65 and older. People between age 2 and 64 with underlying medical conditions were also included on the high risk list, as well as women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
Some health care workers, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities and children 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy also were considered at high risk.
State health officials said it's still unknown when the general public will be able to get the vaccine.
Those in the high-risk group need to call their physicians to see where vaccine is available, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa state epidemiologist.
She said that with about 55 million flu doses available, "it's conceivable that we will be able to vaccinate all the high-risk people this year."
The CDC says flu symptoms include high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are more common among children.
Quinlisk said this year's flu season is hard to predict, but the same strains as last year are expected.
"Which is good news because that means that a lot of people were either vaccinated last year or had the flu last year and therefore will have some immunity this year," she said.