Area medical facilities are beginning to get flu vaccine and expect to have their full shipments by later this month.

Unlike last year, there are no signs of major shortages.

“All of our locations have received at least a portion of the flu vaccine they’ve ordered. Some have received their entire shipment,” said Kevin Burns, director of communications for ISJ Mayo Health System in Mankato.

Katie Nerem-Roth, director of public relations for the Mankato Clinic system, said it has received only a small portion of what it has orderedr and hasn’t begun giving vaccines.

“We anticipate everything we’ve ordered will arrive in late October. We’re waiting until we have a majority of what we ordered until we schedule flu shot clinics,” she said.

The Mankato Clinic ordered about 19,000 doses. ISJ ordered about 9,500. Both increased their orders from last year.

So far, only people in the risk categories can get flu shots, but come Oct. 24, anyone can get a shot. That’s based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health.

ISJ hospitals and clinics in the region have been giving flu shots to people in risk categories, such as the elderly, those with chronic diseases and pregnant women.

Even though there have been no indications of vaccine shortage, Burns said there are some potentials for at least temporary diversions of vaccine supplies.

“We have every reason to believe we will receive all the dose. But we don’t want to over-promise, either. The demand for the vaccine in the southern part of the United States remains to be seen,” Burns said.

The CDC is putting a priority on vaccinating people who are in the areas of hurricane damage because of a higher potential for the spread of disease there.

“That area may become a priority by the government and drug companies, but we don’t know yet,” Burns said.

Both the ISJ system and the Mankato Clinic system plan to re-evaluate things in a couple of weeks and then hope to proceed with vaccinations for anyone who wants them.

Nerem-Roth said there is plenty of time through November for people to get vaccinated. “We really start seeing the flu in late December and January,” she said.

Burns reminded people that vaccines aren’t the only answer for otherwise healthy people. “Much of this is common sense and it doesn’t involve needles.”

Washing your hands thoroughly and often and covering your cough are the most important steps to preventing the spread of flu.

“And if you’re sick, stay home from work, school, the mall, anyplace,” Burns said. “If your child is sick, keep them home.”

The CDC says there should be 86 million vaccine doses available nationwide this season.

The CDC ranked last year’s flu season as the worst in the past four seasons.

New this year, is the CDC’s announcement that only those in the high-risk priority categories are to be given flu shots up to Oct. 24. After that date, anyone can request a flu shot.

The deadline is in response to widespread confusion last year. Many healthy people chose not to get shots, and clinics were wary of giving them, because of reports of shortages of vaccine in parts of the country. But, in the end, there were several million doses of vaccine that went unused.

The CDC said that concentrating on the risk groups until Oct. 24 gives health officials plenty of time to vaccinate those who most need it and still leave enough time and vaccine for anyone else who wants it.

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