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FOR RELEASE: October 12, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Health Officials Update Availability of Flu Shots

Oklahoma's health departments, nursing homes and many private doctors' offices are receiving news that longer than expected delays in influenza vaccine supplies will occur this fall. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is not expecting its first shipments of flu vaccine to begin arriving until November. Last year, about 20 percent of vaccine orders were received in October.

Earlier manufacturing expectations were that at least 50 percent of vaccine orders would be shipped in October. With the revised schedule, this year's delay in influenza vaccine could mean the public will see an even bigger lag in getting flu shots than was experienced last year.

“Since it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to be fully effective, and flu activity in Oklahoma does not peak until January or February, we are still encouraging the public to get their flu shots as soon as they are available in their area,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

The delay is attributed to undisclosed manufacturing difficulties with at least one of the producers. Only two manufacturers are producing flu vaccine this year. Some health care providers, depending on which company they ordered from, may have already received the vaccine and are offering clinics. County health departments and many nursing homes, however, will not begin receiving their flu vaccine until at least November.

Distribution of shots will be similar to last year, with priority for the early vaccine being given to nursing homes. Health officials recommend that the most vulnerable people get vaccinated first. At-risk persons include:

  • senior citizens aged 65 and over;
  • persons with chronic conditions such as heart or lung problems, diabetes, or asthma;
  • women who are in their second or third trimester of pregnancy; and
  • health care workers who provide direct patient care.

Health officials also recommend that persons age 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions get a pneumococcal vaccination to reduce pneumonia resulting from influenza or other respiratory illnesses.

For more information about the availability of flu shots in your area, contact your local county health department, health care provider, pharmacist, or visiting nurse association.


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