Flu Shots for Highest Risk Children and Nursing Home Residents to Resume

First Part of Plan to Get Limited Supply of Vaccine to Vermonters Most in Need Announced

DATE: October 15, 2004

CONTACT: Communication Office

BURLINGTON, VT - State health officials today announced the first part of a plan to get the limited supply of flu vaccine in the state out to Vermonters who will need it most.

“We’re asking physicians to vaccinate the very highest-risk kids first, and we’re working out details for getting all nursing home residents vaccinated,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD. “This will get about 10,000 doses out to protect the most vulnerable before the flu season starts. We’re asking physicians to hold off on vaccinating everyone but their very highest risk kids.”

Pediatric and family doctors will have vaccine for high risk chldren in their offices on Wednesday, October 20. Vaccine will also go out to nursing homes; distribution details are being worked out.

Vaccinations for high risk children will be phased-in in the coming weeks based on medical need. The Health Department sent its newly revised Recommendations for Pediatric Use of Influenza Vaccine - October 14, 2004 to pediatric and family health care providers around the state.

According to these recommendations:

1. Physicians should resume making appointments and giving flu shots to children age 6 months to 18 years old who have one or more chronic medical conditions that require frequent or ongoing medical treatment.

This includes children on daily aspirin therapy and children who have asthma that requires daily use of control therapy (inhaled or oral steroids or leukotriene antagonists).

This does not include all other children with asthma who have only infrequent symptoms that require non-steroid inhalers such as albuterol.

2. Physicians should establish a waiting list of all other children age 6 to 23 months. These children may be vaccinated should additional vaccine become available.

3. Children older than 23 months who do not have a chronic medical condition that requires frequent and/or ongoing medical treatment should NOT be vaccinated this year.

“Next week we’ll release a plan for vaccinating other high risk adults,” said Jarris. He credited the state’s health leaders, insurers, providers and Gov. Jim Douglas for all their work to try to solve the dilemma posed by the state’s vaccine shortage, and praised Vermonters for their willingness to help assure that the vaccine goes to the people who need it most.”

“Everyone is not going to be able to get a flu shot this year. We are all agreed that our top priority is to get vaccine to those who need it most, wherever they are in the state. We’ll continue to work with the state’s health leadership on the most equitable way to redistribute the vaccine that remains and to pursue all avenues to secure more vaccine for the state.”

A quick inventory of the vaccine supplies this week showed that there are an estimated 36, 000 doses of vaccine in the state, some of which has already been administered. Of those 36,000 doses, approximately 10,000 are controlled by the Vermont Department of Health. An estimated 50,000 additional doses of vaccine are needed to protect Vermonters who would be most at risk for life-threatening complications or death from influenza.

Also this week, Gov. Jim Douglas reached out to the government of Quebec and flu vaccine sources in Quebec to seek additional vaccine to supplement the state’s limited supply. It is not yet known if additional vaccine is available. The governor has also asked Attorney General Bill Sorrell to monitor the state for price gouging related to the vaccine shortage.

“Thanks again to the state’s health care providers and people all around the state for holding off on flu shots while we work through this very difficult situation,” said Dr. Jarris. “Judging from more than1,000 callers this past week to our information line, Vermonters understand why it’s so important we get this done right.”

Although a vaccination is the best protection against the flu, it’s not the only protection.

To stay healthy:

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

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