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HEALTH OFFICIALS SUSPEND FLU VACCINATIONS

Flu shots for thousands of high-risk residents at public clinics and nursing homes have been suspended across the region, health officials said Friday, as they await word from the federal government on whether they will get any new vaccine shipments.

Area health officials are holding more than 100,000 doses of vaccine in reserve -- nearly half of which is earmarked for the state's "Vaccine for Children" program, which provides vaccinations for children who are underinsured or not insured.

The balance of the doses will be used to fill gaps at local health departments or for use if there is an outbreak.

While officials awaited word of restocks from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county health departments continued to be flooded with calls, mostly from the elderly inquiring where they can go to get inoculated against the flu.

The CDC began overseeing distribution of the vaccine last month after a massive shortage occurred when one of the manufacturers that provides half of the flu shots to the United States threw out its vaccine batches because of bacterial contamination.

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