By Chanda Kumar
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Children in Baltimore County public schools will have to wait until December before they can receive their nasal spray vaccine for the flu because of a shortage in the medication, school officials said.
Tiffany Tate, the executive director of the Maryland Partnership for Prevention in Baltimore County, which administers the flu vaccine for the local school system, said the program had to be delayed because the vaccines that were received from local manufacturers did not meet the standards of evaluators.
Tate said that while other counties have canceled the program, Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties decided to delay it because many parents in those areas depend on the school-administered vaccines for their children.
The program was originally suppose to start on Oct. 9 and cover students in what are known as Title I schools, which are economically disadvantaged institutions that are given additional resources.
As of last year, 47 Title I elementary schools offered the vaccine program, according to BCPS. Each year, about 10,000 Title I students receive the spray vaccine in Maryland.
Baltimore County had also planned to start offering the vaccine to an additional 15,000 students at non-Title I schools on Oct. 23. However, no students were given the vaccine because the medication that the county received protected against only three strains of the flue. The new vaccine will protect against four strains.
“It is our goal to immunize as many elementary and middle school students in Maryland as possible,” Tate said.
Several manufacturers of FluMist say that the shortage is caused by strains of the vaccine being replaced, Tate said.
Many prefer the spray vaccine due to its ease of administration and convenience. Students can go right to their nurse’s office during school hours and receive the quick vaccine, like a standard nasal spray.
Typically, the flu season lasts from October until March, with the peak being from January to February. Each season can be unpredictable, which raises concerns about how students can stay immune to the flu. About 36,000 people die each year from flu-related causes in the United States, according to Harvard Health, which is why health officials encourage alternative methods of vaccination.
“There’s not a delay in the delivery injectable vaccines, which are available at the doctor’s office or pharmacy,” said Gregory Reed, program manager of Center for Immunization at the Maryland Health Department. “We encourage people that if they want their children to be vaccinated, they should take them there.”
The program will eventually continue, like previous years, when enough batches of the vaccine are complete. It is projected that the FluMist nasal spray will be made available again in December.