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Flu season gets a shot in the arm

"Although delivery of this year's batch of flu vaccine has been delayed, local health officials and pharmacists are not worried about battling an epidemic.We don't see flu here until the first of the year, said Dorothy Hawthorn, a pharmacist and owner of Bogard's Pharmacy in Silverdale. Flu vaccines are produced every year using strains of influenza gathered the previous winter. Problems arose this year because two major flu vaccine-producing pharmaceutical companies, Monarch and Aventis-Pasteur, had trouble extracting last season's flu strain to make this year's vaccine, according to Hawthorn.That problem was remedied, however, and manufacturers have started to produce the new vaccine. The Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District might get a batch as soon as Oct. 15, although its vaccination campaign won't begin until Nov. 1, according to the district's Kerri Dobblelaere. The nationwide problem also is affecting the Navy. Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs Officer Judith Robertson said the Navy is waiting for the vaccines just like everyone else.How many doses of the vaccine are needed is unclear. Hawthorn planned to order around 1,000 for her medium-sized Old Town pharmacy. The health district will order about 10,000, and Robertson said the Naval Hospital will order 8,500 flu vaccine doses for area personnel and their families.Despite the delay, health officials said they will get the vaccine in plenty of time for the upcoming flu season. Hawthorn said the season doesn't start until the first part of November, and usually doesn't peak until the first of the year. When they do arrive, Hawthorn said priority will be given to small children, senior citizens and other high-risk persons.Hawthorn said there is a concern that people returning from the Olympic Games might bring flu season back with them. Australia - where winter just ended - has suffered from a recent flu outbreak. Since the flu vaccines now being manufactured for the United States are from strains of flu here last year, an overseas flu might be hard to remedy.We're just biding our time and praying a lot, Hawthorn said.Hawthorn said they will not give the vaccine to those who already have contracted the flu. It is better to wait out the flu, then get vaccinated after symptoms subside.Hawthorn also maintained that flu shots do not cause the flu. Although some people might experience flu-like symptoms for a day or so after the injection is given, the most common side effect of the shots is a sore arm. That is an old wives' tale, Hawthorn said. It used to be true, but not any more. "

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