Flu Vaccine in Michigan Should Be Preserved for High Risk Individuals

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

October 13, 2004

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Director Janet Olszewski said today that the state’s limited supply of influenza vaccination should be preserved for children between the ages of six months to 23 months, seniors over the age of 65, and other high risk populations.

Olszewski – flanked by members of the health care community – said early estimates indicate that Michigan will only have about half of the flu vaccine supply it needs during a typical year, making it critically important to preserve vaccine for those most at-risk.

“This effort to coordinate our remaining vaccine supply requires a true partnership with the private providers in the community who administer the majority of the vaccines in the state of Michigan,” Olszewski said. “This is an enormous logistical feat that Michigan is undertaking for the first time – and we will succeed.”

Today, Olszewski said the state is asking physicians who administer influenza vaccine to restrict administration of the vaccine to those people in priority groups, which include:

· All children aged 6-23 months,

· Adults aged 65 years and older,

· Persons aged 2-64 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 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 aged less than 6 months.

Dr. Dean Sienko, acting state Chief Medical Executive, said during the press conference that state officials are continuing to meet with health care providers to more concretely define the priority populations, but that healthy adults should refrain from getting a flu vaccine this season.

“If you’re a healthy adult in line to receive a flu shot, we want you to seriously consider getting out of line and saving your dose for a senior citizen or a sick child,” Sienko said. “Every vaccine dose given to a healthy adult is one less that can be given to an at-risk individual.”

Michigan learned last week that the Chiron Corporation – a major influenza vaccine supplier for the United States – would be unable to distribute more than 40 million vaccine doses in the United States for the 2004–05 influenza season.

Since that time, an unprecedented effort to coordinate supplies of vaccine has been ongoing between MDCH and the Michigan Association of Local Public Health and private providers around the state, Sienko said. State officials also offered alternative methods for populations not at-risk to stay healthy during the flu season.

“Now is a critical time for the people of our state to not only practice good citizenship by allowing high-risk individuals to receive a flu shot, but also taking simple precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from an illness that can be very serious,” said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan’s Surgeon General.

Wisdom said there are several things that can be done to avoid getting the flu and spreading it to others, even without getting a flu vaccine, such as:

· Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing – with soap and warm water, or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

· When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

· Remember to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands with soap and warm water.

· Living a healthy lifestyle is your best defense against illness. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest.

For more information about influenza activity in Michigan, check the MDCH web site at www.michigan.gov/influenza.