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FOR RELEASE: November 2, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

First Flu Vaccine Goes to Nursing Homes

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that it has received its first shipment of flu vaccine for this flu season. About 40,000 doses, or 16 percent of the total doses expected, will be sent to nursing homes throughout the state.

Due to this year's flu vaccine delay, state health officials determined the first doses should go to those who need it most, the frail elderly in nursing homes. As additional vaccine is delivered, it will be distributed to county public health department clinics. These clinics will give priority to vaccinating persons at high risk for complications from the flu, including people over 65 years of age, persons with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma, pregnant women, and health care workers who provide care to at-risk patients. Vaccinations of healthy adults will follow.

This year's flu vaccine distribution was complicated when all four manufacturers licensed to develop flu vaccine in the U.S. had difficulty growing the A Panama strain, one of the new strains included in this year's vaccine. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration cited two of these manufacturers for their manufacturing procedures.

State health officials believe the timetable for delivery of their additional vaccine will occur in mid-November and early December. Yet even with these shipment delays, there still should be plenty of time for healthy adults to get a flu shot before flu season arrives. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to be fully effective. Persons who typically go to their county health department for a flu shot and are now anxious about the vaccine delay may want to look at other options, including private health care providers and groups like the Visiting Nurses Association.

Health officials do advise that persons with a chronic illness, like diabetes, should make every attempt to get their flu vaccination. Persons with diabetes are about three times more likely to die from problems associated with the flu and pneumonia than people who do not have diabetes. (As a precaution, people with diabetes should check with their doctor before receiving flu shots or any other vaccine.)

Health officials also recommend that persons age 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions get a pneumococcal vaccination to reduce pneumonia resulting from influenza or other respiratory illnesses. This vaccine is currently available at physicians' offices and local county health departments.

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