Hundreds of individuals who receive the flu vaccine from the Dudley Coe Health Center each year will have to rely on hand-washing and other precautionary measures in order to ward away the virus this year.
In an email sent to all members of the Bowdoin community, Director of Health Services Dr. Jeff Benson announced that the campus may not receive doses of the flu vaccine this year.
The Dudley Coe Health Center expected to receive its flu vaccine order from the Maine Bureau of Health, which placed its entire order with one company, the American biotechnology firm Chiron. Chrion owns the Liverpool factory that had its manufacturing license suspended by the British government last week after it was reported that as much as half of the expected American-bound supply could be infected with bacteria.
Federal officials had hoped to have 100 million vaccine doses available this flu season, according to the New York Times. Due to the license suspension, as few as 54 million doses are going to be available to the American public.
Last year, influenza killed at least 619 people in Colorado alone. At-risk individuals throughout the country fear what this year's season could bring.
"We've heard lots of expressions of real concern on the part of our members," People Plus Executive Director Sig Knudsen told the Brunswick Times Record. People Plus is an organization that serves local senior citizens.
Although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to search for new supplies immediately, production of the vaccine takes time and would not be ready soon enough to have much, if any effect this season.
With Bowdoin College on a wait-list for vaccines and no definite commitments that the orders will be filled at all this year, students are going to find this winter to be "a different kind of flu season," said Benson in his campus-wide email.
For many years, the Dudley Coe Health Center offered flu shots to all students, faculty, staff, and community members who requested the vaccine. "There have been delays in delivery of flu vaccine to the Health Center, but never more than three or four weeks," Benson said.
In the past, approximately 400 students yearly opted to receive a flu vaccine for a fee of $5 to $10.
With this year's shortage of available vaccines, health centers nationwide are only vaccinating individuals considered to be "high risk." Those with vaccination priority include infants 6 to 23 months old, adults over the age of 65, and people with chronic medical conditions, specifically asthma or lung disease.
Dudley Coe is contacting Bowdoin students who are considered "high risk" and is directing them to locations where vaccines may be available. Shaw's and Hannaford Supermarkets have both scheduled clinics to administer the vaccines to higher-risk individuals.
For those members of the community unable to receive a flu vaccine this year, Benson suggests certain precautions to minimize exposure to the virus.
"[We] can still do a lot to protect ourselves [and our community]: looking after ourselves by eating right and getting enough rest, avoiding smoking and excess alcohol, and protecting others from our coughs and sneezes," Benson said.
"Not getting a flu shot does increase your chances of getting the flu, but fortunately for most students, the illness is short-lived and self-resolving," he said.
Travis Dagenais '08 sees little reason to be concerned. "I'm not at high risk, I can go without," he said. "I've never gotten a flu shot because I never thought it was necessary. People should focus on being clean and killing germs instead of getting vaccinated."
William Hales '08 shares Dagenais' position. "I've never gotten one, and I never will," he said.