More than 4.2 million influenza vaccine doses were shipped this week to health providers serving high-priority groups as part of the plan announced on October 12 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Aventis Pasteur. Since
-- State Public Health Departments
-- Department of Veterans Administration
-- Long-term Care Facilities/Acute
-- Vaccines for Children program
-- Private physicians who care for young children
-- HMOs and private providers serving high-priority groups
-- Department of Defense
We are and will continue to take all the steps possible to get vaccine out in an equitable way to those who need it most, said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. The spirit of cooperation we are seeing by Aventis Pasteur, state and local health officials, clinicians, hospitals, and the public is extraordinary and is what will help deal with this challenging situation.
Gerberding urged people to continue to be patient and persistent as health officers work to fill vaccine coverage gaps in the coming weeks. The approximately 16.5 million remaining doses of vaccine will be shipped to public and private vaccine providers, at a rate of about 2.5-3 million doses per week, primarily through early December. About 2.6 million doses of the Aventis Pasteur vaccine will be available for shipment in early January 2005.
On Oct. 5, 2004, after Chiron Corporation announced that none of the doses of influenza vaccine it had produced would be available this year, CDC announced priority groups for vaccination for the 2004-2005 influenza season:
-- all children aged 6-23 months,
-- adults aged 65 years and older
-- persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions
-- all women who will be pregnant during influenza season,
-- residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities,
-- children 6 months-18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy,
-- healthcare workers with direct patient care, and
-- out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged <6 months.
Influenza season is unpredictable. In most years, the season peaks between December and March. It is too early to say how severe the 2004-2005 season will be, but to date only sporadic cases have been reported.
Vaccination is the best protection against influenza, but there are alternatives. Antiviral drugs can be used before someone becomes ill to prevent them from getting the flu or taken within one to two days of first flu symptoms to reduce the severity of the illness.
The Department of Health and Human Services has purchased a stockpile of antiviral drugs to treat more than 7 million people during the 2004-2005 flu season. Other supplies of the antiviral drugs are available through private health providers. It is estimated that about 40 million of people could be treated this flu season with the antiviral drugs available.
Finally, everyone can take practical steps to help prevent spread of flu:
-- avoid close contact with people who are sick
-- keep your distance from others if youre sick
-- when possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick, and dont send your children to daycare or school if they are sick
-- cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and
-- clean your hands often.
For more information about the flu, visit the CDC Website: http://www.cdc.gov/flu.