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DHS news release

January 6, 2005

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, (503) 731-4180
Technical contact: Grant Higginson, M.D., (503) 731-4000

Public health officials will lift flu vaccine restrictions

Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced that restrictions on influenza vaccine are lifted, effective immediately.

This means that providers will be free to give flu shots to the general population, as demand for vaccine has fallen short of supplies.

As a result of a national vaccine shortage, DHS previously invoked an emergency rule to assure flu vaccination was available for those people in certain high priority groups who are at increased risk of serious complications from influenza. Last month, that rule was loosened to allow vaccination of people age 50 or older, out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of people who are at risk.

“Even with these loosened restrictions, we are at a point where our supply of vaccine is exceeding demand,” said Grant Higginson, M.D., state public health officer in DHS. “Allowing broader dispersal of vaccine to any Oregonian who wants a flu shot will help ensure that all doses are used and will benefit the entire population by reducing disease transmission.”

Higginson said it appears that about half of high-risk persons have received their shots to date. He notes these individuals still have the greatest need for protection, and he advises them to seek vaccination immediately.

In Oregon, flu season typically does not peak until February—which means getting a flu shot now still provides a timely safeguard against influenza, according to Higginson. Normally, it takes two weeks from the time of inoculation for vaccine to become effective.

“We’ve been fortunate that, so far, the flu season has been mild,” Higginson said. “Of course, we can’t predict how this year will play out, so this is an opportunity for those who wanted to get vaccinated before to do so now.”

Higginson said that Oregon still has access to about 30,000 doses of flu vaccine from CDC, but they will need to be ordered soon if we want them.

“We continue to work closely with county health departments and other vaccine providers. If any of our partners see new demand and want us to order some of those additional doses, we will do so,” Higginson said. “We are really relying on our partners who have direct contact with clients to dictate the need for bringing more vaccine into Oregon.”

Persons seeking information about vaccination should check with their health care provider or they may call the statewide flu hotline at (800) 978-3040 statewide or (503) 872-6900 in the Portland area, or (800) SAFENET.