Thursday, September 16, 2004
DPH director reassures state residents about flu vaccine availability Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Jaime H. Rivera, MD, FAAP reassured Delawareans that he expects the state to have ample supplies of flu vaccine, despite a delay announced by the Chiron Corporation, one of two of the country’s major flu vaccine manufacturers. “Each year, Delaware’s Division of Public Health coordinates closely with federal officials so our flu vaccine orders are accurate and placed early, well before the flu season begins around the first of the year,” Dr. Rivera said. On Aug. 26 the Chiron Corporation announced that it will delay releasing all doses of its new (2004-2005) Fluvirin® influenza virus vaccine until at least early October, according to Chiron’s press release posted on their website. Chiron’s internal quality control systems identified a small number of lots that do not meet product sterility specifications, and additional tests are needed, the release said. In May, DPH ordered 32,000 doses of influenza virus vaccine: 24,000 adult doses from Chiron and 8,000 pediatric doses from Aventis-Pasteur, the other major U.S. supplier, Dr. Rivera said. DPH expects to receive its flu vaccine order by Oct. 12, the date of the first of many flu clinics sponsored by the Delaware Immunization Coalition and DPH. If the vaccine arrives after that date, DPH will adjust the scheduled clinics as it did in 2000 when the Aventis vaccine was delayed. Influenza viruses are spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, malaise, cough, sore throat and runny nose. Children may experience earache, nausea and vomiting. Influenza can be difficult to distinguish from other respiratory illnesses. People 65 years and older are particularly vulnerable to the complications of influenza infection, including pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. The flu can also worsen pre-existing chronic health problems.   The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people visit their physician or a flu vaccination clinic if they are in any of the following groups at high risk for becoming seriously ill from influenza:
  • People older than age 50
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,
  • Adults with chronic illness or compromised immune systems, and children older than six months,
  • Adults and children who have required regular medical care in the past year
  • Women who will be in the second or third month of pregnancy during the flu season
  • Health care workers, household contacts and employees of assisted living facilities
  • Children aged six to 23 months.
  • Optimal months to receive influenza vaccine are October, November, and December since the epidemic usually comes in January or February. In September, the Delaware Influenza Coalition will publicize the annual flu vaccination clinics schedule. For more information, call DPH’s immunization hotline at 1-800-282-8672.