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FOR RELEASE: October 12, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Public Health Officials Look to the Private Sector for
Influenza Vaccine Donation

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that it is establishing an influenza vaccine redistribution network to redirect vaccine already delivered or anticipated by some companies in Oklahoma to those high priority persons who need it most.

State public health officials initiated this network in an effort to meet the needs of many high risk Oklahomans who may be unprotected from influenza this year due to the current market shortage of influenza vaccine.

Each year, many large employers and corporations typically order influenza vaccine for their employees. Given the current vaccine shortage, some companies who have already received vaccine or expect to receive vaccine may be uncertain if they should administer it to their employees.

“We are asking those companies who have an employee population that is likely not to include persons considered at ‘high risk’ for complications from influenza to consider donating their influenza vaccine so that it can be redistributed to persons whose health could be compromised if unprotected from influenza,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

Crutcher said state health officials would also consider purchasing the vaccine from those companies who provide it for reimbursement at the same cost it was originally purchased.

The influenza vaccine redistribution network is yet another measure state and local public health officials are taking to respond to the influenza vaccine shortage. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today that it is working with Aventis Pasteur, the one remaining licensed supplier of influenza vaccine in the U.S., to distribute unshipped vaccine to areas of need throughout the country. While Oklahoma is likely to receive some portion of those doses, state health officials are uncertain how much vaccine they can expect to be shipped to the state.

Although no cases of influenza have been confirmed in Oklahoma, health officials suggest Oklahomans begin getting in the habit now of practicing simple prevention precautions, including:

  • Wash your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with persons who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
    Stay home when you are sick. &
  • Seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms of influenza: unusually high fever, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, and dry cough.
  • There is no such thing as the “stomach flu.” Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other stomach distress can sometimes be related to influenza, especially in children, but these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza.

Persons representing companies who might be interested in being a part of the influenza vaccine redistribution network should contact Dorothy Cox, Assistant Director, Immunization Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health, 405/271-4073.

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