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FOR RELEASE: October 1, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

Timely Delivery of Flu Vaccine Expected This Year

Expectations are high for improvement in the distribution of influenza vaccine this year, say officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Flu vaccine shipments to county health departments and nursing homes are expected to begin this month, based on preliminary information from influenza vaccine manufacturers. Last year, initial doses were not distributed to these facilities until November 7.

Projected distribution of influenza vaccine for 2002 is 94 million doses nationally. By the end of October, 50 percent of the total doses should be available for delivery, and another 40 percent are projected to be available in November.

State health officials recommend that vaccination efforts in October focus on:

  • Persons at increased risk of influenza-related complications (persons 65 years of age and older and persons 6 month to 64 years of age with certain medical conditions)
  • Health care workers
  • Household contacts of persons at increased risk of influenza-related complications (including contacts of infants younger than 6 months old who are not eligible for influenza vaccine)

In addition, children aged 6 months to 23 months of age and their household contacts are encouraged to get early vaccination as supplies are available. All others, including persons aged 50 to 64 and other healthy adults, should be given the vaccine in November and December. Children under 9 years of age should receive two doses of influenza vaccine at one month apart if they are receiving the vaccine for the first time.

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, vaccination should continue through December and January, or as long as vaccine is available. The flu strains in this year’s vaccine are A Moscow, A New Caledonia, and B Hong Kong.

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 if they receive the vaccine after age 65.

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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