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FOR RELEASE: October 13, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Officials Looking for Good Samaritans to
Donate Influenza Vaccine

The Oklahoma State Department of Health continued its call to employers today to consider donating or providing for reimbursement any influenza vaccine they may have ordered for those employees who are healthy and do not fall within the high risk categories for this year’s limited supply of influenza vaccine.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Oklahoma’s employers to make a difference in our state’s health,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

State public health officials have initiated an influenza vaccine redistribution network to redirect vaccine already delivered or anticipated by some companies in Oklahoma to those high priority persons whose health could be compromised if unprotected from influenza.

This action follows yesterday’s announcement from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that they are working with Aventis Pasteur to redistribute unshipped vaccine to areas of need throughout the country. At this time, state health officials do not yet know how much of this vaccine will be shipped to Oklahoma.

“We are encouraged by the actions taken by CDC and Aventis, but we must move forward with a plan for Oklahoma and explore all available options to redistribute vaccine to those in most urgent need,” Crutcher said.

Companies interested in participating in the influenza vaccine redistribution network should contact Dorothy Cox, Assistant Chief, Immunization Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health, 405/271-4073 .

Crutcher also urged private vaccine providers to provide vaccine only to those individuals who are at high risk, as defined by CDC. “We ask private vaccine providers to use discretion when prioritizing vaccine and provide it to the higher urgency groups until additional vaccine is available,” he said. “Any vaccine that is beyond the needs of your client base could be donated or sold to the influenza vaccine redistribution network for redistribution.”

Groups at most risk of complications from influenza and thus should receive the vaccine include the following:

  • All children ages 6 - 23 months.
  • Adults 65 and older.
  • Persons aged 2 - 64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions.
  • All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Children aged 6 months - 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy.
  • Health care workers involved in direct patient care.
  • Out of home caregivers and household contacts of children aged less than 6 months.

No cases of influenza have yet been confirmed in Oklahoma. Although vaccination is the best protection against influenza, it is not the only protection. State and local public health officials urge all Oklahomans to practice “what mom said” about preventing the spread of germs, including proper handwashing; covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth; avoiding close contact with persons who are ill; and staying home when ill.

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