MDCH And Health Agencies Work In Partnership On Flu Vaccine Shortage in Michigan

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

October 8, 2004

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) officials continue to meet with the leadership of the state’s public health departments to determine how best to distribute the state's limited supply of influenza vaccine.

This week, MDCH Director Janet Olszewski called together representatives of the Michigan Association of Local Public Health (MALPH) following the announcement Tuesday that a major U.S. supplier – the Chiron Corporation – will not be providing any of the approximately 50 million doses, or about half the nation's supply, that had been expected this year.

MDCH is developing a coordinated strategy in conjunction with hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, home health agencies and others to quickly inventory where and how much vaccine there is in the state, Olszewski said.

“Our partners in this effort have all agreed that our No. 1 priority is to ensure that vaccine is first distributed those that will need it the most this season,” Olszewski said. “We believe the coordination of the flu vaccine supply will be critical as we work to protect Michigan’s most high-risk populations.”

Given the potential shortages this season, priority groups for vaccination are:

· All children aged 6 to 23 months

· Adults aged 65 and over

· Persons aged two to 64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions

· All women who will be pregnant during influenza season

· Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities

· Children, aged 6 months to 18 years of age, on chronic aspirin therapy

· Health-care workers with direct patient care, and

· Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than six months of age.

Persons in priority groups identified above should be encouraged to search locally for vaccine if their usual health-care provider does not have vaccine available.

The state also is issuing guidance – with the help of the Michigan State Medical Society and the Michigan Osteopathic Association – to private physicians in regards to flu vaccine shortage in Michigan.

Dr. Matthew Boulton, State Chief Medical Executive, said the state’s guidance regarding conversation of vaccine is in line with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. "We will be asking health care providers to provide vaccine to our state’s high risk populations first,” Boulton said. “Fortunately, the flu season is in its earliest stages in Michigan and we have had some time to plan how to make the most effective use of the vaccine in the state.”

Despite the shortages, Dr. Dean Sienko, Medical Director of the Ingham County Health Department, said there are measures everyone can take to limit their exposure to the flu.

"With or without a flu shot, there are actions you can and should take to stay healthy during flu season," Sienko said. "Wash your hands well and often, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay away from people with flu-like symptoms. If you do get sick, stay home. We also ask all Michigan citizens to work extra hard this year to remind people of these effective prevention actions.”

Healthy habits can protect everyone from getting germs or spreading germs at home, school, or work. Simple actions – like covering your mouth and nose and cleaning your hands often – can stop germs and prevent illnesses and reduce sick days.

For more information regarding staying healthy during the flu season, visit http://www.cdc.gov/germstopper.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year, with an estimated 36,000 deaths nationally. About 1,000 deaths result from influenza in Michigan annually, with almost all occurring in the senior population. For the latest information about influenza in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/mdch.

The department’s influenza page can be accessed using the first quick link on the right-hand column.