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FOR RELEASE: November 22, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Priorities for Administration of Flu Vaccine

Following the lead of the Dr. David Satcher, Surgeon General of the United States and the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC) the Oklahoma State Health Department is recommending that the currently available flu vaccine be administered to high risk individuals first, particularly those individuals with the greatest risk for serious illness or death from influenza.

The following groups are judged to be of the highest risk:

  • Persons aged 65 years or older;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities that house persons of any age who have chronic medical conditions;
  • Children and adults who have chronic disorders of the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems, including asthma;
  • Children and adults who have required regular medical follow-up or hospitalization during the preceding year because of chronic metabolic diseases (including diabetes mellitus), renal dysfunction, hemoglobinopathies, or immunosuppression (e.g., caused by medications or human immunodeficiency virus);
  • Persons aged 6 months-18 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and therefore might be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after influenza; and
  • Women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season.

As influenza vaccine becomes available, vaccination efforts should be continue to be focused on persons at high risk for complications associated with influenza disease and on health care workers and others who care for persons at risk for influenza complications.

Groups implementing mass vaccination efforts should seek to enhance coverage among those at greatest risk for complications of influenza and their household contacts. Strategies for targeting mass vaccination efforts at high-risk persons include: (1) targeting announcements in publications and other media focused toward the elderly and those with high-risk medical conditions; (2) establishing liaisons with community groups representing the elderly and those with chronic diseases; and (3) offering vaccination to elderly relatives of persons in the workplace and employees.

After high risk individuals are covered, special efforts should be made in December and later to vaccinate persons aged 50-64 years who are not included in the high risk group. Efforts to vaccinate other healthy persons may occur in December as vaccine is available.

Edd Rhoades, MD, of the Oklahoma State Department of Health encourages continuation of vaccination efforts for all groups into December and later as long as influenza vaccine is available. Production of influenza vaccine will continue through December, and providers should plan for how vaccine provided late in the season can be used effectively.

Oklahoma has received 67,500 doses of flu vaccine so far which is only 27 percent of a total order of 250,000. According to Don Blose, the director of the health department's immunizations efforts, 29,200 of these doses have gone to nursing homes and the rest have distributed to the county health departments across the state The remainder of the State Health Department's order is expected to arrive by the end of December with next shipment expected to arrive the week after Thanksgiving.

Health officials also recommend that persons age 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions get a pneumococcal vaccination to reduce the risk of 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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