11,000 New Doses of Flu Vaccine Added to Vermont Supply

Flu Shot Distribution Underway

DATE: November 4, 2004

CONTACT: Communication Office

BURLINGTON - The effort to get limited supplies of flu vaccine to those Vermonters who need it most got a boost this week when a national association delivered additional vaccine to the state.

Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD said on Thursday that the Visiting Nurse Associations of America has added 11,000 new doses to the current supply now being distributed to people who are most at risk of serious complications or death from influenza.

The national association offered vaccine to five local member agencies. Those five local Home Health Agencies are working with the Vermont Department of Health and will share this vaccine with the other seven home health and VNA agencies throughout the state to administer vaccine to high risk adults. As early as next week, this vaccine will go out to frail elderly in assisted living, long-term care, adult day care and homebound settings.

“This is a remarkable gesture of generosity and cooperation,” said Dr. Jarris. “It’s one more example of how Vermonters have pulled together to do the right thing in a difficult situation.”

“Vermont VNAs and Home Health Agencies provide thousands of flu shots to Vermonters every year and we were very dismayed at the sudden shortage this year,” said Judy Peterson, vice president of Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice. “We welcome the opportunity to work with the Health Department to make sure that the most vulnerable Vermonters are immunized.”

Peterson is working with the Health Department on flu vaccine distribution as the liaison from home health.

“There’s still not enough vaccine for everyone who wants or even needs a shot to get one, but the VNA donation will go a long way toward protecting those who are most vulnerable,” said Jarris.

To make the best use of the vaccine that is available within the state, the Health Department has issued revised recommendations for vaccinating children, adults and health care workers. These are being used to guide vaccine distribution.

In a Health Order dated October 20, the health commissioner also directed health care providers and organizations that have privately purchased vaccine to return a portion of their supply to the Health Department for redistribution. This order was developed at the urging of hospitals and health care providers. The Health Department has received approximately 10,000 doses to date as a result of the health order. A portion of this recovered vaccine has already gone out to vaccinate nursing home residents.

“The response from Vermont hospitals and health care providers has been extraordinary and I think unique among the states,” said Jarris.

Vaccine Distribution

The state’s plan for distributing flu vaccine to high risk groups is on schedule and, so far, ahead of this year’s flu season. As of November 1, there has been no flu activity in Vermont.

By now most children age 6 months to 18 years old who have serious medical conditions have had their flu shot or are scheduled for one by their doctor. This required approximately 7,000 doses of vaccine provided by the Health Department through its Vaccines for Children program.

Most nursing home residents will be vaccinated during the first weeks of November, using about 3,000 doses recovered as a result of the health order or provided by hospitals and a private corporation.

With vaccine from the Visiting Nurses Association of America, about 6,000 frail elders in assisted living situations, adult day care or homebound will be vaccinated by the end of November.

About 1,000 doses will be used to protect patients in dialysis units, pulmonary clinics, hematology and oncology clinics, infectious disease clinics and people in specialty care for HIV/AIDS. Another 3,500 doses will be used for certain health care workers who provide direct patient care.

The Department of Health and Vermont’s home health agencies are planning to hold a small number of clinics for very high risk adults who have no other way to get a flu shot. Final details are being worked out now. Once the schedule and locations are finalized, information will be made available through the media and the Health Department website, www.healthyvermonters.info.

Only adults older than 18 who have one or more chronic medical conditions that require frequent or ongoing medical management, the frail elderly with no chronic medical condition, and pregnant women will be eligible for flu shots through these clinics.

“No one wants to get the flu. For most of us, getting the flu is miserable, not life threatening,” said Dr. Jarris. “We’re working as hard and as fast as we can to move the limited supply of vaccine that is in state around to people who have the greatest need—and we continue to pursue all avenues to bring more vaccine into the state.”

With or without the flu shot, there are actions everyone can take too stay healthy and keep illness from spreading:

If you’re sick, don’t spread your germs to others:

For questions about flu or the flu vaccine shortage situation, check the Vermont Department of Health’s website at www.healthyvermonters.info or call the information line during business hours: 800-695-0022 (toll free in-state).