Vermont Responds to National Flu Vaccine Shortage

Flu Clinics for State Employees Canceled

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: October 6, 2004

CONTACT: Communication Office
863-7281

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health was alerted Tuesday that one of the major manufacturers of flu vaccine for the United States, Chiron Corp., will not be distributing influenza vaccine this year. Approximately 50 million doses or one half of the U.S. supply of vaccine will not be available during the 2004-2005 flu season, and this will have an impact on Vermont.

According to Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris, his department is working to determine exactly how this news will affect Vermont—how much vaccine is currently available and where is it most needed. He is meeting with health care providers, hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes and others to discuss options for redistributing vaccine to make sure that it gets to those who most need it. In addition, the department has canceled flu clinics planned for State Employees and Retirees.

Following the Center for Disease Controls recommendations, the Vermont Department of Health has issued new guidelines for who should and who should not get a flu shot.

“We are asking that people who are otherwise healthy forego getting a flu shot so that the available vaccine can be used for people who are at high risk for the most serious illness from influenza,” Jarris said.

The highest priority groups for vaccination are:

“We are calling upon Vermonters to join us in assuring that our vaccine supply will be used for those who need it most,” said Jarris. “By making sure that the flu vaccine goes first to these priority groups, we can make sure that our most vulnerable populations are protected.”

In addition to changing the guidelines, health officials are also reminding people that there are some simple things that they can do to protect themselves:

Influenza is caused by a virus that is mainly spread from person to person through coughs and sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches that may last for a week or more. Most people are sick for a few days but some may become sicker and may need to be hospitalized. Influenza is highly contagious and can cause serious complications such as pneumonia.

Persons with questions about influenza and the vaccine shortage can call 1-800-695-0022 (toll-free in Vermont). Information about preventing influenza infection and what to do when you have the flu can be found on the Health Department website at www.healthyvermonters.info .