NU Online News Service, Oct. 14, 2004, 5:35 p.m. EDT

The Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, points out that it already covers the FluMist nasal spray flu vaccine.[@@]

Other health insurers have been offering to cover the FluMist vaccine as well as injectable vaccines to help the United States cope with a sudden shortage of the injectable vaccine.

But Principal notes that it routinely covers both types of flu shots for all health care customers whose benefits include coverage for flu vaccination.

The United States now expects to receive only about half the anticipated number of doses of flu vaccine because of production problems at a U.S.-owned plant in the United Kingdom. Public health authorities have been urging health insurers and health care providers to steer the flu shots that will be arriving toward the patients who need them the most.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the FluMist shot for healthy people ages 5 to 49. Complete nasal spray vaccine test results are not yet available for babies, sick people or elderly adults. If healthy U.S. residents get the FluMist shot, that should leave more of the injectable vaccine for other patients, officials says.