Bears: Two vaccinated have asthma conditions

Updated: October 22, 2004, 5:00 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears gave scarce flu vaccines to two players who have asthmatic conditions that placed them at high risk of developing influenza, the team said Friday. The Chicago Bulls NBA team also was vaccinated.

Healthy players who asked whether they should receive the vaccinations were told no, Bears spokesman Scott Hagel said.

"The players that received the shots were the ones that were in the high-risk category," Hagel said. "Nothing was offered categorically across our players. This is part of our standard procedure every year."

The team returned its unused flu vaccine to the distributor, Hagel said.

"We received our order in mid-September, well before the shortage was announced," Hagel said. The nationwide shortage was announced Oct. 5.

The team called a news conference Friday after the players' morning practice in response to media reports that healthy players had received the vaccinations.

"Everybody is really conscious of what is going on," defensive end Michael Haynes said. "We realize there is a shortage, and everybody is trying to do their part."

Generally, only players who need the vaccinations are offered them, Haynes said.

"A lot of us are healthy and we don't have respiratory problems. Obviously we're not old and we're not young, not little kids, so we don't need it and we know that," he said.

Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said he wasn't offered a shot.

"No. I mean, come on, guys, are you serious? No," Hillenmeyer said. "I didn't even know they were doing it. I didn't even know they were giving them."

Chicago Bulls players received the vaccinations Oct. 4 -- one day before the shortage was announced.

"We absolutely need them," guard Eric Piatkowski said. "The way we travel, we're going in and out of cold and warm climates. I won't say we need them more than some 85-year-old person, because obviously we don't. But I'm glad we got them."

The vaccine shortage was caused when one of the nation's two suppliers, Chiron Corp., was barred from shipping its vaccine because of contamination. That cut almost in half the 100 million doses U.S. officials were expecting.

Officials urged healthy Americans to forgo shots so there will be enough for those at highest risk of getting seriously ill from flu. Those at risk include babies and toddlers ages 6 months to 23 months, adults 65 or older, and people with chronic illnesses.

Each year, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus and 36,000 die.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press