Flu Vaccine Delayed

From: "Bruce K. Melson" <doc32751@cookeville.com>


 October 6, 2000

         Flu Vaccine Delayed at VA Facilities

 WASHINGTON, D.C. - Influenza vaccines will be delivered later than usual this
 year to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities. A
portion of
 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 year, more
 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 health
 providers are reminded to focus their early immunization efforts on persons
 high risk of complications associated with the flu -- the elderly and those
 veterans with chronic conditions," Dr. Roselle added.

 Delay in distributing the flu vaccine is not limited to VA. In June, vaccine
 manufacturers told federal public health officials to expect flu vaccine
 shipments later than usual this fall. The amount of vaccine is complicated by
 two factors: 1) one of the three strains in this year's influenza vaccine
 more slowly than expected, which limits the supply that can be developed in
 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, resulting in
 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 annually
 include the viruses that are most likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu
 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 and
 B/Yamanashi. It takes one to two weeks after receiving the shot for a person
 develop protective antibodies.

 In addition to flu viruses, it is important to note that other respiratory
 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 from
 to year, according to CDC. Given the delayed availability of the flu vaccine,
 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 season.
 NCHPDP also is advising veterans over the age of 65, veterans with a chronic
 disease, and health care workers to be targeted first for the flu shot.

 "The vaccine does not protect 100 percent of the time," said Dr. Roselle.
 "Among healthy adults it is 70-90 percent effective. In the elderly and
those with
 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 most
 important preventive measure against the debilitating flu virus."


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