The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) received information on October 5, 2004 that, due to manufacturing problems in the United Kingdom, the United States will have only one-half of the expected supply of the influence vaccine available for this year’s flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued interim influenza vaccination recommendations identifying high-risk groups to be vaccinated and advising that persons not in one of the priority groups forgo or defer vaccination this season.
CDC has been working with vaccine manufacturers regarding the possibility of redistribution of vaccine around the country. Over the next six to eight weeks, New Jersey will receive additional influenza vaccine to be allocated to hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and private providers who care for young children and for other individuals at high risk of flu-related health complications.
The CDC and Aventis Pasteur today announced a plan to distribute 22 million doses of unshipped vaccine to high-risk populations nationwide. It is the CDC’s plan that all states receive at least 50 percent of their original flu vaccine orders, which would then be used to immunize high-risk groups.
“It is very good news that more vaccine is coming to our state. As a result, New Jersey will be able to immunize a significant number of high-risk people, such as the elderly, young children and people with chronic health problems,” Commissioner Lacy said.
“Meanwhile, DHSS strongly urges healthy people, ages 2 to 64, those who do not fall into a high risk group, to defer or forgo vaccination this year so that those at high risk can be protected. Every dose of vaccine that is not administered to an individual at low risk, is available to provide immunity from influenza for an individual at high risk.”
Commissioner Lacy today hosted a teleconference call to provide the latest information on the flu vaccine supply. Included on the teleconference call were representatives of local health departments, hospitals, primary care providers, long-term care, business and municipal groups.
According to the Commissioner, the first 14.2 million additional doses will be distributed nationwide over the next six to eight weeks. Hospitals, nursing homes, physician practices caring for young children, state and local health agencies, and other providers to high-risk groups will receive the additional vaccine.
The CDC, working with state and local health departments, will then assess what areas of need remain in deciding how to distribute the remaining 8.2 million doses.
Last week, the Department set up a toll-free telephone hotline to answer questions related to the vaccine shortage from the public and health care providers. Since then, the hotline has received approximately 2,000 calls – 1,000 today alone – mostly from people in the community seeking influenza vaccine, and the rest from health care providers seeking vaccine.
There are measures New Jersey residents should take to protect themselves from the flu and other respiratory viruses: avoid people who are ill, stay home when sick, and practice Universal Respiratory Precautions including covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using tissues to contain respiratory secretions and promptly disposing of them, and washing hands thoroughly and often.
“We also strongly recommend that seniors and people with chronic health problems receive their pneumococcal vaccine as directed by their health care provider,” said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and senior assistant commissioner. “If you do get the flu, this vaccine will protect you from a type of pneumonia that can be contracted as a complication of influenza.”