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FOR RELEASE: January 18, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Restrictions Lifted on Use of Influenza Vaccine in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is lifting all restrictions on flu shots in the state effective tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 19. Anyone who wants an influenza vaccination should contact his or her health care provider or local county health department to see if vaccine is still available and inquire about clinic times.

State public health officials said they are taking this action because more than 17,000 doses of influenza vaccine are still available at local county health departments, and many thousand more doses are unused with private health care providers.

This is the latest in a series of events related to the influenza vaccine shortage that included a high demand last fall when the shortage was announced, a redirection of vaccine to states that were going to fall short of being able to vaccinate those at high-risk of medical complications from influenza, and a loss of interest by the public once flu vaccine became more plentiful.

“We don’t want the remaining influenza vaccine to be wasted,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “We have taken extraordinary efforts to make certain that all high-risk Oklahomans have had the opportunity to access the influenza vaccine either through their local health department or health care provider. We believe those in the high-risk groups have already received the vaccine if they wanted it.”

Recent estimates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Oklahoma has done an outstanding job in reaching individuals aged 65 and older with influenza vaccination. Thus far, nearly 72 percent of the state’s seniors have received flu vaccine this season compared to 54 percent nationally.

Oklahoma loosened its restrictions on influenza vaccine last month when supplies remained high and demand dropped. Oklahoma also assisted other states still trying to reach their high-risk populations by redirecting some flu vaccine to them. Even so, vaccine is still available in Oklahoma.

“Although we continue to experience a mild influenza season, flu is unpredictable. We think it is best to protect as many Oklahomans as possible with the vaccine we still have on hand,” Crutcher said.

Vaccine availability varies by location in the state. Persons should check with their local health departments or health care provider about the availability of vaccine in their area.

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