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DHS news release

October 6, 2004

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Grant Higginson, MD, MPH (503) 731-4829

Flu vaccination recommended only for people at high-risk

News that as much as half of the nation's flu-vaccine supply won't be available this season is prompting Oregon public health officials to recommend that healthy people under 65 not be vaccinated, at least temporarily.

"This is a severe blow to the nation's efforts to prevent influenza, and we know it will challenge both medical providers and the public," said Grant Higginson, M.D., state public health officer in the Oregon Department of Human Services. "We are working with our partners around the state to minimize the extent to which Oregon's flu vaccination efforts will be affected by this, although we know that the effect will be substantial.

"In the meantime we are encouraging health-care providers and the general public to follow guidelines issued Tuesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Higginson said the CDC is advising health-care providers to provide flu vaccine only to people in these high-risk groups:

• Children ages 6-23 months;

• Adults ages 65 and older;

• Anyone ages 2 to 64 with underlying chronic medical conditions;

• Women who will be pregnant during influenza season;

• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;

• Children ages 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy;

• Health-care workers who deliver direct patient care; and

• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 months.

Higginson also said that people in the high-priority groups should search locally for a health-care provider with vaccine if their usual provider cannot supply it. Another resource to find out about flu clinics in Oregon is toll free at 1-800-SAFENET. He said federal officials also are investigating whether another source of vaccine might be available.

The dramatic reduction in vaccine supply is a result of the Chiron Corporation's Liverpool plant having its license suspended for three months by United Kingdom regulatory officials. With the loss of the Chiron vaccine, CDC officials say the U.S. will have about 55 million doses of vaccine for the upcoming flu season

This is substantially fewer than the 100 million doses expected, or the 87 million vaccinations delivered last year.

Influenza is a severe respiratory illness that results in over 500 deaths in Oregon each year. Immunizing high-risk groups annually against the disease is an effective prevention strategy.