Thursday, October 28, 2004
Health officials place priority on flu vaccines
Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS) has issued an order to ensure that Delawareans in high-priority groups will be the first to receive current supplies and expected shipments of influenza vaccine. DHSS Secretary Vincent P. Meconi signed the order to control Administration of influenza vaccination, in a move that mirrors that of other state health officers during this year’s national influenza vaccine shortage. The order includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition of high-priority groups for immunization and directs physicians to administer vaccine only to individuals who fit those criteria. DHSS, in consultation with the Division of Public Health and with the support of the Medical Society of Delaware, the Delaware Healthcare Association and the Delaware Health Care Facilities Association, issued the order to:
  • assure that all healthcare providers use the same criteria when providing vaccine to residents;
  • conserve vaccine for those that need it most;
  • reinforce the high-priority groups, as defined by the CDC; and
  • assist healthcare providers in informing their patients about current flu vaccination practices.
As of now, an extremely limited amount of vaccine is available among private physicians. DHSS and the DPH do not have vaccine. DPH expects to receive a shipment of as much as 11,000 doses for the general high risk public in the next four to six weeks. When that shipment arrives, DPH will announce clinics to administer those doses to individuals in the high-priority groups. Individuals in the high-priority groups are encouraged to check with their physicians to see if they have the vaccine, and get a flu shot if it is available. If they are not able to get the vaccine from their physicians, individuals should monitor the news and the DPH website to find out when the vaccine is available. (See Dr. Anthony Policastro’s column for a list of those who are at high risk.)
“Delawareans have been very cooperative and compassionate in getting high-risk residents vaccinated,” said DPH director Jaime H. Rivera, M.D. “We have not heard of price gouging or theft in Delaware.” Nationally, 43 million people are included in the high-priority groups. This year, Aventis Pasteur produced 54 million doses of flu vaccine. A plan to redistribute the vaccine, organized in phases by the CDC, should provide vaccine for high-priority Americans. DPH continues to work with its state and federal health partners to determine the quantity of vaccine still needed. DPH recommends residents take the following steps to prevent viral illnesses and relieve symptoms should they occur:
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands frequently and carefully with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing. Be sure to clean under fingernails.
  • Supervise children when washing hands to assure that they use soap and water thoroughly.
  • Stay home if you are sick, to avoid spreading illness to others.
  • Consult your physician if you are ill and ask about additional interventions such as anti-viral medications.
There have been no flu cases in Delaware during the 2004-2005 influenza season. DPH distributed more than 31,300 doses of flu vaccine to Delawareans during the 2003-2004 flu season. For more information about the flu vaccine, call DPH’s immunization hotline at 1-800-282-8672 or the CDC public response hotline, 888-246-2675 (English), 888-246-2857 (Español), or 866-874-2646 (TTY). Additional flu information may be found at the following websites: and