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FOR RELEASE: September 11, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Shorter Delays in Flu Vaccine Delivery Expected This Year

Preliminary information from influenza vaccine manufacturers suggests that delays in the distribution of influenza vaccine will occur again this year but not to the extent as last year, say officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health

Flu vaccine shipments are expected to arrive beginning in late October rather than late September, when they typically are delivered; however, health officials believe the vaccines will arrive early enough in the season to be effective.

Projected distribution of influenza vaccine for 2001 is 79.1 million doses nationally. By the end of October, 60 percent of the total doses should be available for delivery, and the remaining 40 percent are projected to be available in November and December.

Oklahoma does not usually see influenza disease until late December or January and in most years, flu activity does not peak until January or February. It takes about two weeks after the shot for a person to gain full immunity. Therefore, even with a delayed vaccine schedule, the vaccine will still protect most people. The flu strains in this year's vaccine are A Moscow, A New Caledonia, and B Sichuan.

State health officials recommend priority be given to those persons at highest risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • people over 65 years of age;
  • people with chronic illnesses, such as heart and lung problems, diabetes and asthma;
  • women who will be in their 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season;
  • and health workers who provide direct patient care.

As the supply of vaccine becomes more available in November and December, persons aged 50-64 and other healthy adults should be given the vaccine.

Health officials also recommend that persons age 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions get a one-dose pneumococcal vaccination to reduce pneumonia resulting from influenza or other respiratory illnesses. Pneumonia is a leading reason for hospitalizations in Oklahoma and the leading cause of in-hospital deaths. Pneumococcal vaccine is generally needed only once in a person's lifetime.

Although there are several antiviral drugs now on the market, these are not recommended to prevent flu but can be effective in reducing adverse effects if someone gets the flu. These are generally available through your physician.

For more information about when flu shots will be available in your area, check with your health care provider, local county health department, pharmacist, or visiting nurse association.

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