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DHS news release

October 20, 2004 Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Technical contact: Grant Higginson (503) 731-4000


State public health officials complete flu vaccine survey, will distribute approximately 4,000 doses statewide

A preliminary statewide assessment identifying the location of flu-vaccine supplies confirms that every county has shortages at this time and for some counties the shortages are severe, according to public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services. A recently completed statewide assessment provided DHS the baseline data of vaccine availability in Oregon.

"We understand that people are very concerned they may not receive a flu shot," said Grant Higginson, M.D., state public health officer in DHS, "but there's still time for people in high-priority groups to seek vaccine. Influenza normally doesn't emerge until the winter months, and more vaccine is coming," he said.

DHS is allocating the majority of approximately 4,000 doses of vaccine it controls to 12 counties identified in the assessment as having the lowest percentage of vaccinated people in high-priority groups. Those counties are: Baker, Columbia, Crook, Curry, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wheeler, and Yamhill.

Higginson said this is being done to make sure that every part of the state has some vaccine for residents who fall in a high-priority group, and that the limited supply is being shared as equitably as possible across the state.

The remaining counties will receive a smaller number of doses each, depending on the county population to help provide health departments flexibility in dealing with targeted groups.

Only people in the following high-risk groups are currently eligible to receive flu vaccine in Oregon:

  • 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.
On Oct. 8, DHS activated a statute and created administrative rules requiring health care professionals to follow the above guidelines.

In cooperation with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Aventis Pasteur will release more than 14 million doses nationwide of flu vaccine over the next six to eight weeks to providers serving high priority people, such as nursing homes, hospitals, the Veteran's Administration, public health agencies, and health care providers caring for children. Oregon public health agencies will receive at least 20,000 additional doses in this phase.

An additional 8 million doses from Aventis Pasteur will be released later to fill gaps for those who ordered from California-based Chiron, the manufacturer whose Liverpool plant was shut down, according to Higginson. Up to 2.5 million additional doses from Aventis Pasteur should be available for nationwide distribution in January.

Persons in a high-priority group seeking the vaccine should first call his or her primary health care provider. Local health departments, listed in the blue pages or on the DHS website, are another good source of information on vaccine availability. DHS has activated a statewide toll-free Flu Hotline, (800) 978-3040 or (503) 872-6900 for the Portland metropolitan area. It is operational Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"We will continue to keep the public informed as developments occur," Higginson said. "In the meantime, everyone can help avoid spreading illness by practicing good personal hygiene." Specifically, he advises:

  • Wash your hands frequently to get rid of germs you have picked up.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or shirt sleeve when you cough or sneeze to avoid spreading germs.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you're a senior and haven't had a pneumoccoccal vaccination, now is the time to get one. Pneumonia is a serious complication of the flu.