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FOR RELEASE: October 6, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

High Risk Persons Are Encouraged To Get Their Influenza Vaccine First

Based upon recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is notifying local health care providers to target providing influenza vaccinations for high risk populations.

“Oklahoma will experience a shortage of influenza vaccine this year due to the cancellation of distributions from the manufacturer Chiron. Since we cannot avoid this, we are asking healthy individuals not to get their influenza vaccine this year, so that the populations at highest risk of complications of influenza can be reached first,” said Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

OSDH officials recommend the following priority groups for vaccination with inactivated influenza vaccine:

  • persons over 6 months of age with underlying chronic medical conditions;
  • adults aged 65 years and older;
  • all children aged 6-23 months;
  • health-care workers involved in direct patient care;
  • all women who will be pregnant during the influenza season; and
  • out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of infants.

A possible vaccination option for persons not included in the priority grouping is the intranasally administered, live, attenuated influenza vaccine, FluMist™. If available, through private providers, FluMist™ is encouraged for healthy persons who are aged 5-49 years and are not pregnant, particularly health-care workers, first responders, and persons caring for children aged 6 months or younger.

Individuals are also encouraged to check with their private health care provider or clinic as alternative sources for getting the inactivated influenza vaccine.
Influenza circulates every year and most previously healthy people recover without major complications. Public health officials advise that good hygiene tips can go a long way in preventing disease:

  • Cover your cough,
  • Wash your hands frequently,
  • Stay home from work or school, if you are sick,
  • Dispose of tissues properly, and
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

At this time there are no cases of influenza reported in the continental United States.

The OSDH is forming a statewide task force to help coordinate and direct contingency plans for the 2004-2005 influenza season. The task force will include partners from many professions including health, business, education, social services and emergency services. The task force will begin meeting as early as next week, and is expected to function throughout the influenza season, which typically extends from October through March in Oklahoma.

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