You and Flu


Aside from flaming cars, there’s another issue on people’s minds in France. It’s flu. Walking out of the Metro, an electronic billboard reminds senior citizens to get their free flu shot – the trouble is – at this point in time (November 14th), there are no flu vaccines available in most Parisian pharmacies. There’s been a ‘rupture de stock’ which is expected to be repleted later on this week. Because of the aviary flu in birds, more people than usual are getting flu shots against the human variety of flu that normally strikes in fall and spring. The norm in France is not to bother with flu shots unless you are over 65 years of age. But a visit to the local hospital reveals some other unanswered questions. Fortunately, at this moment in time, waiting a week isn’t a problem but what happens when you really need a flu shot?

First of all, in France, you don’t go to your doctor for a flu shot – you go to your doctor to get a prescription for a flu shot. Then you go to the pharmacy to buy the vaccine. Then you return to your doctor or go to a nurse to have them adminsiter the injection (or some people do it themselves).
Last month, there was a run on the product TAMIFLU which is supposed to alleviate flu symptoms (including aviary flu) if administered in the first 48 hours. However TAMIFLU is no longer available at pharmacies because it has been requisitioned by the military – for this reason – according to local doctors: If Tamiflu is used incorrectly there’s a risk that its effectiveness may be compromised – a lot like overuse of antibiotics which have created resistant strains of bacteria, so could the same irresponsible use of TAMIFLU create resistant strains of the flu virus.
That is the supposed explanation.
Here the major concern is when not if the aviary flu would be transmitted from person to person (like with the Spanish influenza epidemic).
Meanwhile, it is surprising with so much concern that a ‘rupture de stock’ should occur at the same time that the Minister of Health is meeting with doctors to be well prepared in case of a future aviary flu outbreak.
What is really going on here?

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