Flu Vaccine Questions Answered

Edition: September 2001 - Vol 9 Number 09
Article#: 1047
Author: Repertoire

Given the scarcity of flu vaccine last year, it's no surprise that questions about the availability of vaccine are high this year. And, as it turns out, those questions are well-founded.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, total distribution of influenza vaccine will be 77.1 million doses this year, greater than in 2001 (70.4 million doses), but barely bigger than in 1999 (76.8 million). Vaccine manufacturers predict that production will lag behind former years. According to CDC, 49.8 million doses will be available for delivery by the end of October 2001. This is approximately 26 million fewer doses than were available by the end of October 1999.

Working with the CDC, the Health Industry Distributors Association developed and sent informational brochures to its members to hand out to their provider customers to answer questions about flu vaccine. HIDA had been asked by the government this spring to comment on a report to Congress about the subject and has worked with it ever since, reports HIDA Communications Manager Janay Rickwalder.

Because of the delay in flu vaccines and the large number of doses projected for distribution in November and December, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has developed supplemental recommendations, which are summarized in the HIDA materials. Following are some of them.

For Providers

•Providers should target vaccine available in September and October to persons at increased risk for influenza complications and to health-care workers. The optimal time for vaccinating high-risk persons is October through November. To avoid missed opportunities, vaccine also should be offered to high-risk persons when they access medical care in September, if vaccine is available.

•Beginning in November, providers should offer vaccine to contacts of high-risk persons, healthy persons aged 50-64 years, and any other persons wanting to reduce their risk for influenza.

•Providers should continue vaccinating patients, especially those at high risk and in other target groups, in December and should continue as long as there is influenza activity and vaccine is available.

For the Public

•Persons at high risk for complications from influenza, including those aged >65 years and those aged <65 years who have underlying chronic illnesses, should seek vaccination with their provider when vaccine is available. The optimal vaccination period is October through November but may include September if vaccine is available.

•Persons who are not at high risk for complications from influenza, including household contacts of high-risk persons, are encouraged to seek influenza vaccine in November and later.

For Suppliers

•Distribution of vaccine to worksites, where campaigns primarily vaccinate healthy workers, should be delayed until November.

•All providers who have placed orders should receive some early season vaccine. This strategy will ensure that virtually all providers will be able to vaccinate some of their high-risk patients early in the season. As an exception, complete orders for chronic-care facilities serving high-risk populations should be provided early so that vaccine can be administered in October or November.

•Manufacturers, distributors, and vendors should inform providers of the amount of vaccine they will be receiving and the date of shipment.

As preparation for the 2001-02 influenza season proceeds, updates on vaccine supply and other information about influenza vaccination are available at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/flu.