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New York Gov. David A. Paterson today announced that State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD, has suspended the mandatory influenza immunization requirement for New York healthcare workers so that the limited vaccine supplies can be used for populations most at risk of serious illness and death – especially pregnant women and children and young people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years.
“Over the last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that New York would only receive approximately 23 percent of its anticipated vaccine supply by the end of the month,” Paterson said. “As a result, we need to be as resourceful as we can with the limited supplies of vaccine currently coming into the State and make sure that those who are at the highest risk for complications from the H1N1 flu receive the first vaccine being distributed right now in New York state.”
In July and August, the federal government gave states vaccination planning scenarios projecting that 120 million doses of H1N1 vaccine would be available nationwide by the end of October. This week the CDC acknowledged that only about 27.7 million doses of vaccine would be available by the end of the month – just 23 percent of the original projection. Similarly, the CDC originally projected 200 million doses of H1N1 vaccine would be available by the end of November; the CDC’s now projects 65.9 million doses will be available nationwide by the end of that month. New York State receives 6 percent to 7 percent of the national vaccine supply, based on population.
“We had told hospitals that if they had to choose between vaccinating patients or employees to vaccinate patients first,” Daines said. “This week, the CDC confirmed that most of the national supply of seasonal flu vaccine has been distributed, and that H1N1 vaccine distribution is far behind projections. New evidence is showing that H1N1 can be especially virulent to pregnant women and young people – so they should get vaccinated first.”
Demand for the H1N1 influenza vaccine by New York’s healthcare providers has far exceeded supply. The State Health Department opened a call-in center this week for doctors to place orders of H1N1 vaccine for their patients. So far this week, the CDC has allowed the state to enter actual orders for 146,300 doses of vaccine – while New York’s providers have requested more than 1,482,822 doses.
The CDC also recently reported that, due to increased demand this year for seasonal flu vaccine, many providers do not currently have enough of that vaccine to immunize their patients.
“We are pleased that so many people are seeking to be vaccinated against seasonal and H1N1 flu,” Paterson said. “Although the H1N1 vaccine supply is coming in far more slowly than expected, we urge people most at risk of serious complications from the flu to keep in touch with their healthcare provider so that they can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available.”
“The vaccination of healthcare workers continues to be an important patient safety measure, and I urge hospitals and other healthcare facilities to encourage employees to be vaccinated against the flu and to schedule flu clinics for that purpose when enough seasonal and H1N1 vaccine becomes available,” Daines said.
Citing the authority granted to the Commissioner by the regulation, Daines noted that because vaccine supplies are inadequate, he is suspending the mandatory requirement for healthcare worker vaccination. With vaccine supplies coming in at lower amounts and at a slower pace of delivery than originally projected, not all workers would be able to get vaccinated before the Nov. 30 deadline provided in the regulation.
The Commissioner referred to the clause in the regulation that states: “If the commissioner determines the vaccine supplies are not adequate given the numbers of personnel to be vaccinated or vaccine(s) are not reasonably available, the commissioner may suspend the requirements(s) to vaccinate and/or change the annual deadline for such vaccinations(s)”
The priority groups to receive the H1N1 flu vaccine, as established by the CDC, are:
Pregnant women, who are experiencing four times the rate of hospitalization and six times the rate of death from H1N1 flu;
Children and young people ages 6 months through 24 years (infants under 6 months cannot be vaccinated);
People who live with or provide care for infants under six months of age;
People ages 25-64 years old who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for flu-related complications (including cancer, blood disorders, chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disorders, liver disorders, neurological disorders, neuromuscular disorders, and weakened immune systems); and
Healthcare workers and emergency medical services personnel.
Daines noted that the CDC reported 43 pediatric deaths from the flu during September – an unusually high number. “I urge parents to get their children vaccinated and to take their children for treatment if they develop fever and breathing difficulties so that antiviral medication can be administered right away.”