Earlier this week, students received an e-mail from Student Health Services warning the campus that the scarcity of this year’s influenza vaccine will limit its distribution to only those of highest risk. Most providers will only issue vaccines to individuals over 65 years of age unless they bring evidence of a chronic medical condition that could become a severe threat if they were to contract the virus this winter. In the past, Colgate has been able to provide flu shots in sponsored clinics at a significantly reduced cost to the student: this year, however, will be different, as students who require the vaccine will need to leave campus to get it. Students were directed to http://www.findaflushot.com/, where they can search for clinics offering the vaccine in surrounding areas. One of the nearest vaccination clinics this weekend is in Syracuse – 33 miles away – and will only be open for four hours. Students are warned to call any clinics they intend to visit in advance to confirm that they have not been canceled. The shortage is quickly becoming front-page news all over the country. Pick up any national newspaper, and one ill see descriptions of clinics that have already been held, complete with stories of people who have been turned away after waiting in line for hours either because the provider ran out of doses or because they did not qualify. The Hamilton and Morrisville Tribune reports that Madison County has canceled all of its public vaccination clinics due to a complete lack of supply. The reason for this year’s shortage actually lies overseas. A company called Chiron Corporation in Liverpool, England normally supplies about half of the United States’ entire stock of influenza vaccine yearly, but was closed by British authorities over suspicion of inadequate precautions against contamination. The other supplier, a French company called Aventis, is providing the States with nearly 55 percent of the 100 million doses that had been planned for distribution this year. According to an article this Thursday in The New York Times, more than half of those doses have already been consumed. Because the influenza virus is to prone to mutation, a new batch of vaccines must be produced every year based on statistical data indicating what the most dominant strains are likely to be for the coming winter. Consequently, supplies are always limited and rely on a handful of mass producers, who must begin from scratch every year just to keep ahead of the viral trends. Student Health Services advises students to take particular care this winter to observe fundamental sanitary precautions for the protection of themselves and others against disease, including staying home when you are sick, avoiding close contact and keeping your hands clean. Questions regarding the vaccine and other health-related information can be answered at x7750.