State and Health Care Agencies Working Together on Flu Vaccine Shortage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: October 7, 2004

CONTACT: Communication Office
863-7281

BURLINGTON, VT — Vermont Department of Health officials today met with the leadership of the state’s major health care organizations and insurers to determine how best to distribute the state’s limited supply of influenza vaccine.

Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD called the meeting following the announcement Tuesday that a major U.S. supplier, Chiron Corp., will not be providing any of the approximately 50 million doses — or about half the nation’s supply — that had been expected this year. As a result Vermont, like other states, expects to face a vaccine shortage just as the 2004-05 flu season is due to begin.

“The Health Department is working together with hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, the home health agencies and insurers, employers and others to quickly inventory where and how much vaccine there is in the state,” said Dr. Jarris.

Dr. Jarris thanked this group for their quick and cooperative response.

“We are all agreed that our top priority is to get vaccine to those who will need it most. All parties have agreed to hold vaccine supplies in place while we inventory the state’s supply and determine whether new federal recommendations on who should get vaccinated will adequately protect Vermonters,” said Dr. Jarris.

“We will be asking health care providers to hold off on giving flu shots for most of their patients for a few days while we do this work. Fortunately, the flu season has not yet begun and we have a little time to plan how to make the most effective use of the vaccine we do have.”

There have been no reports of influenza illness yet this year in Vermont. Influenza (the flu) can spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or speaks and spreads virus into the air, and other people breathe in the virus. When these viruses enter the nose, throat or lungs of a person they begin to multiply, causing symptoms of flu.

“With or without a flu shot, there are actions you can and should take to stay healthy during flu season,” said Dr. Jarris. “Wash your hands well and often, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay away from people with flu-like symptoms. If you do get sick, stay home. We also ask all Vermonters to work extra hard this year to remind people of these effective prevention actions.”

For questions about flu or flu vaccine, call the Vermont Department of Health during business hours 800-695-0022 (toll-free in state) or visit www.healthyvermonters.info.

Participants in today’s meeting called by the Health Department included representatives from: Vermont Medical Society, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP, Cigna, Visiting Nurses Association, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Vermont Association of Home Health Agencies, Vermont Health Care Association, Vermont Chapters of the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Practice, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other state government agencies.