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DHS news release

Nov. 1, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Technical contact: Mel Kohn, M.D. (503) 731-4135

 

Health officials encourage certain high-priority risk groups to take advantage of FluMist and broaden its use


Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services today made FluMist available to a wider group of people, announcing two changes to their earlier vaccine recommendations.

 

Healthcare workers who do not directly care for patients with compromised immune systems or people who have close contact with children under 6 months are encouraged to consider getting immunized with FluMist, to help preserve the supply of injectible vaccine for other high risk groups.

 

FluMist may now be given to any healthy person ages 5 through 49 years, bringing Oregon's recommendations in line with those of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Additional FluMist is being shipped to Oregon and will be available through some local health departments within the next few weeks. "We don't yet know how much will arrive, but we don't expect supplies to be plentiful," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in DHS.

 

FluMist is administered via nasal spray rather than injection. Because it contains live, but weakened, influenza virus, it is not used for many high-priority individuals, including the very young, those over age 50, or people with chronic disease.

However, FluMist can be used for most healthcare workers unless they directly care for patients with severely weakened immune systems. In addition, household contacts of children under 6 months old can safely receive it, as long as they are healthy and age 49 or younger.

 

"We want to immunize as many high-priority people as possible, but still make certain all vaccine available to Oregon is used," Kohn said.

 

Inactivated vaccine, administered as a flu shot, is still restricted for use only among eight priority populations:

  • Children ages 6 to 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.

"We're making a push to promote FluMist as an alternative for healthcare workers and contacts of children under 6 months," Kohn said. "We hope they step up and take advantage of it."

Live flu vaccine, administered as FluMist nasal spray, can now be used among:

  • Healthy healthcare workers through 49 years, who do not have close contact with patients with severely weakened immune systems;
  • Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 months.
  • Healthy persons 5 through 49 years old;

Kohn said limited FluMist supplies are currently available in some pharmacies and doctors' offices across the state. FluMist is administered by healthcare professionals only. The average fee is $35; FluMist is not generally covered by insurance.

People who decide to seek FluMist should call their pharmacist or health care provider, the local health department or the statewide toll-free Flu Hotline, (800) 978-3040 statewide or (503) 872-6900 in the Portland area between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.