Don't forget to wash your hands. That's likely the best protection against catching the flu now that no more flu vaccine is available locally.

Umatilla County Public Health is completely out of the vaccine and will not get anymore this flu season, said administrator Genni Lehnert. Same for Morrow County Public Health, said Public Health Director Sheree Smith.

"What minimal doses are left around the country are pretty much spoken for," Lehnert said. "There are essentially no inactivated flu vaccines left by manufacturers."

Staci Buchanan, communication director for St. Anthony Hospital, said the Pendleton facility also is out of vaccine.

Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston has a few vaccinations left, said Kelly Sanders, vice president of ancillary services. But they won't last long.

"We've been giving out quite a few lately," Sanders said Wednesday. "We gave out about 50 vaccinations yesterday and I anticipate we'll give out another 50 today and about 30 tomorrow ... I expect we'll probably be out by tomorrow."

The vaccines are available first-come, first-served at the Good Shepherd Clinic for $7.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner still had a few doses left but they were going quickly, said Tammy Henderson, director of nursing. Henderson noted that a few private physicians in Morrow County also still had a few flu shots left.

Henderson said the flu has not hit south Morrow County all that hard yet, and she has not seen many people come into the hospital with the flu.

The Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it's looking at ways to import more vaccine from Europe and redistribute supplies around the U.S. But that isn't expected to have much impact on supply.

Dr. Julie Gerberding of the CDC said in a press conference Tuesday that manufacturers created about 83 million doses of the flu vaccine this year. Manufacturers, all of which are private, base their production on the number of immunizations given the previous year. Last year, manufacturers made 95 million doses of vaccine, and 12 million were thrown away unused.

When manufacturers prepare to create the vaccine each year, they look at the top three strains they believe will most likely hit the U.S.

"It's sort of a little guesswork involved," said John Rodakowski, a communicable disease nurse for Umatilla County Public Health. "They track what sort of strains of flu need vaccinating based on the previous year and what's been circulating around the world."

The vaccine invariably does not cover all the strains that end up infecting people.

According to the CDC, the flu is hitting hardest in the West, and flu season has yet to peak. Gerberding said the flu season began early this year, prompting more people to get immunized. It usually lasts into March.

While the state of Oregon has yet to put out an official guideline on who should receive any remaining vaccinations, Lehnert said people 65 and older and children from 6-23 months should be vaccinated due their increased susceptibility.

Lehnert said the flu "isn't at epidemic levels yet, but it certainly is at increased activity." She said most people don't realize that nearly 36,000 people die across the nation each year from the flu. "I don't think the general public realizes how important it is to get your flu shot early, like in October."

Gerberding said vaccination manufacturers cannot make any more of the vaccine this year because it takes too long to develop. If they started making more vaccine now, it wouldn't be available until the end of the flu season.

Regardless of whether or not people have been immunized, the emphasis now should be on sneezing into a tissue and washing hands frequently to avoid spreading germs.

For more information, contact your personal physician or Umatilla County Public Health at 278-5432.

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