Thursday, December 30, 2004
Thousands to become eligible for flu shots
Thousands of Delawareans who were previously ineligible to receive a flu shot will become eligible as of Jan. 3, when changes to state and federal restrictions take effect. Vaccine still will be restricted to high-risk groups, but the definition of high-risk will change to include Delawareans age 50-64 and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of people in high-risk groups. Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) is encouraging those individuals to contact their private physicians to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Individuals in the high-risk groups should contact their private physician for a flu shot. Not all physicians have vaccine, but many do. DPH is not scheduling additional public flu shot clinics. DPH estimates that approximately 140,000 Delawareans will become eligible when a change to the state’s emergency order restricting flu vaccine takes effect Jan. 3. Delaware Health and Social Services initially issued the order restricting flu vaccine to members of high-risk groups in October, in the face of a national shortage of flu vaccine. “There is still time for Delawareans in high-risk groups to get a flu shot and be protected when the flu season peaks in January and February,” DPH Director Jaime H. Rivera, M.D., said. “We’re aware that vaccine is still out there, and our goal is to get all the doses used.”
The revised emergency order will permit vaccination of:
• Children age 6-23 months;
• Adults 50 years and older;
• Age 2-49 with chronic medical conditions;
• Women who will be pregnant during flu season;
• Residents of long-term care facilities;
• Children age 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy;
• Healthcare workers involved in direct patient care; and
• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of people in the other high-risk categories. These changes to Delaware’s emergency order coincide with changes recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also take effect Jan. 3.
Also in line with the CDC’s changing recommendations, DPH is expanding the eligibility for flu vaccine through the Vaccines for Children (VCF) program. Effective immediately, children who are household contacts of people in high-risk groups also are eligible for flu vaccine. VFC is a federal program that provides free vaccine for children who are under 18 and uninsured, underinsured, eligible for Medicaid, or are American Indian or Alaska Native.
To date, DPH has distributed or earmarked for distribution more than 56,000 doses of flu vaccine this season:
• 16,084 high-risk Delawareans were vaccinated at DPH clinics.
• 29,181 doses were distributed to physicians, state agencies, hospitals and nursing homes for vaccination of high-risk patients.
• 8,407 doses are being distributed to healthcare providers who give direct patient care.
• 2,485 doses are being distributed individually to Delawareans who have difficulty accessing health care.