The first weakened flu vaccine ever detected by scientists may have been used by two Spokane hospitals, but officials are not recommending re-vaccinating most people.
Only Deaconess Medical Center and the Valley Medical Center and Hospital used the Fluogen vaccine, made by the Parke-Davis division of Warner Lambert Co.
Eleven lots of the vaccine - about 5 percent to 7 percent of all 75 million doses of flu vaccine produced this season by four companies - were found to provide less resistance to one of three influenza strains.
The dose was found to be about 25 percent to 30 percent less effective than the recommended standard.
“It’s not a safety issue,” said Bill Edstrom, the Spokane County Health District epidemiologist who tracks the flu. “It’s not a matter of causing anybody any danger or being a toxic substance.”
The weakened part of the vaccine targets the Nanchang, or Wuhan, strain of flu. The flu cases found in Spokane in the past 10 days still haven’t been identified.
It’s not clear whether the weakened lots of the vaccine were used in Spokane, but they were distributed to all 50 states.
Regardless, healthy people should not be re-immunized, even if they did receive the weakened vaccine.
Federal health officials on Tuesday advised doctors to consider giving another flu shot to the 2 million people at highest risk from complications from the flu, including the elderly and chronically sick.
Doctors’ first priority still is to immunize those people over 65 who never got their flu shots in the first place. The supplies of flu vaccine are dwindling.
Deaconess and Valley hospitals started vaccinating people with a Wyeth Labs vaccine Oct. 14. A week later, the hospitals started using the Parke-Davis vaccine as well. Vaccinations were given until Nov. 22.
About 57 percent of the 1,643 people vaccinated were employees or volunteers at the hospitals. The other 714 people work at about 25 companies that the hospitals’ occupational clinic visited.
The hospitals are contacting those businesses and telling them that anyone 65 or older or with a chronic illness should get re-vaccinated, said Priscilla Gilkey, a spokeswoman for Deaconess and Valley hospitals.
People who have received flu shots are advised to call their health-care providers to determine if they received the Parke-Davis shot.
About 20,000 people every year die in the United States from the flu or related illnesses.
In Spokane County, the first flu case was identified Dec. 9. Since then, at least 12 cases have been confirmed by the Spokane County Health District.
The actual number of cases is probably much higher. Influenza is not required to be reported to health departments like other infectious diseases.
“Basically it’s rampant in the state,” Edstrom said.
The flu so far has been identified in 38 states, including Washington and Idaho, said Keiji Fukuda, the chief of epidemiology for the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NONE IN PANHANDLE The recalled vaccine was not used by state health agencies in North Idaho’s five northern counties, Panhandle Health District officials said. Private physicians, however, may have used the shot.