Flu Vaccine Delayed
>From VA FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2000
Flu Vaccine Delayed at VA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Influenza vaccines will be delivered later than usual
year to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities. A
the vaccine already has been delivered to facilities. However, total
will not be available until early or mid-November.
"VA has one of the strongest vaccination programs in the
country," said Dr.
Gary Roselle, VA program director for infectious diseases. "Last
than 1.1 million veterans and VA health care providers were vaccinated
the flu. This year we anticipate that we will exceed that number.
"However, because of the delay in getting the influenza vaccine, VA
providers are reminded to focus their early immunization efforts on
high risk of complications associated with the flu -- the elderly and
veterans with chronic conditions," Dr. Roselle added.
Delay in distributing the flu vaccine is not limited to VA. In June,
manufacturers told federal public health officials to expect flu vaccine
shipments later than usual this fall. The amount of vaccine is
two factors: 1) one of the three strains in this year's influenza
more slowly than expected, which limits the supply that can be developed
time for flu season and, 2) some flu vaccine manufacturers are having
regulatory problems with the Food and Drug Administration.
Flu is a major cause of illness and death in the United States,
approximately 20,000 deaths and more than 110,000 hospitalizations each
year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Flu viruses continually change over time, and vaccines are updated
include the viruses that are most likely to cause disease in the
season. The flu shot that has been produced for the 2000-2001 flu season
contains three influenza virus strains called A/Panama, A/New Caledonia
B/Yamanashi. It takes one to two weeks after receiving the shot for a
develop protective antibodies.
In addition to flu viruses, it is important to note that other
also frequently circulate during the same periods and can cause similar
respiratory illness. This sometimes leads people to believe that the flu
did not work.
In the United States, flu outbreaks typically occur from late December
March. The start, peak period, duration and total health impact, i.e.,
hospitalizations and deaths, of the flu season can vary considerably
to year, according to CDC. Given the delayed availability of the flu
both CDC and the VA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease
Prevention (NCHPDP) recommend extending the vaccination season into
February. However, flu shots can be taken at any time during the flu
NCHPDP also is advising veterans over the age of 65, veterans with a
disease, and health care workers to be targeted first for the flu shot.
"The vaccine does not protect 100 percent of the time," said
"Among healthy adults it is 70-90 percent effective. In the elderly
certain chronic medical conditions, the vaccine works less often in
illness, but even then it can reduce the severity resulting in fewer
hospitalizations and deaths. Simply stated, the vaccine is the single
important preventive measure against the debilitating flu virus."
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