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Flu vaccine shortages are scaring Okinawa citizens

Date Posted: 2005-12-15

The number of influenza patients being seen by doctors across Okinawa is increasing each week, triggering fears there are not enough vaccine doses to meet needs.

Officials say more and more patients are turning up at hospital doors these days, including many who’ve already been vaccinated. They’re showing all signs of influenza strains. Many are seeking the vaccines, and are worried there may not be enough doses to go around.

Okinawa Prefecture is reacting quickly to stem the fears, telling the Professiona Doctors’ Union and Medical Centers that “there should be enough vaccination medications for every hospital.” The Prefecture urges hospitals to share their vaccine stocks, if need be.

Okinawa’s Preventive Medicine Environmental Section reports that October~November vaccine issues approached 90,000 doses at Medical Centers. A Naha City hospital spokesman says “We don’t heave enough stock for vaccinating our patients, but our appointment books are filled until the end of January.” In Okinawa City, Chuubu-Tokushuukai Hospital echoed the concern, saying “we have only enough vaccine doses for current patients.” The hospital says it cannot take on new patients seeking influenza treatment.

The situation is no better in the outer islands. No vaccinations are available in Tarama Village, where the village office director says “this situation is the first time we didn’t have vaccine. We are having to order direct from the medications manufacturer.” Manufacturers are puzzled, asking “what has happened. We have enough vaccine doses available. The prefecture needs to investigate.”

Another complaint is price variations for flu vaccines. Some hospitals are reporting prices ranging from Y1,000 to Y4,000 each. And the stock levels are dipping. The prefecture reports that there were 153,957 vaccine doses stockpiled the end of October, but only a month later to tally was down 93,210. The prefecture projects at least 90,000 flu patients a month through January, meaning there could be a problem.

In the meantime, medical professionals are urging everyone on Okinawa to stay warm, eat well, get plenty of sleep, wash hands frequently, and gargle with salt or a mouth cleaner to ward off the flu symptoms.

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