William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Wed, 14 Sep 2005 20:05:54 -0400

Federal Officials Urge Flu Shots for All

Sep 14 2005



Federal health officials are pressing forward with plans to ensure flu
vaccinations for hurricane evacuees in shelters as well as all people in
nursing homes, populations they say are particularly at risk while living in
tight quarters.
Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, said Wednesday that elderly evacuees, as well as those of all
ages at shelters, will be among the first to receive flu shots this fall.
Manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur is making 200,000 of the first flu shots
available to those evacuees, officials have said.
Federal stocks of all vaccines are being made available to children who are
evacuees, Gerberding said, speaking at a news conference held by the
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases during the National Influenza
Vaccine Summit.
Gerberding joined other federal health officials and experts to give their
annual plea for people to get their flu shots, focusing particularly on
high-risk groups.
Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, said a proposed rule would require all nursing homes to offer
vaccinations against the flu and bacterial pneumonia.
The goal is to get 90 percent of people in nursing homes vaccinated,
McClellan said. Nursing home residents can opt out, and a few may not be
eligible for the shots for other health reasons, he said.
"Go get your shot," he said. Mary Kahn, a spokeswoman for the centers, said
the rule is expected to take effect Oct. 1. The federal government can
enforce the rule because nursing homes receive Medicare payments.
In a news release, Medicare officials cited a 1999 survey of nursing homes
that said 65 percent of residents had received flu shots and 38 percent had
received bacterial pneumonia shots.
About 2 million people live in the nation's 18,000 nursing homes, Medicare
officials said.
More than 90 percent of the deaths from the flu come in people who are 65 or
older, officials said.
Because of questions about the vaccine supply, federal officials want
high-risk groups to get their flu shots and are asking doctors to hold off
on giving the shots to healthy adults until Oct. 24 at the earliest.
High risk groups include:
_People 65 and older.
_People in long-term care facilities.
_People with asthma, diabetes and other conditions.
_Children between 6 months and 23 months.
_Pregnant women.
_Health care workers who come in direct contact with patients. Less than
half of health care workers get flu shots annually, officials said.
The government hasn't yet predicted just how much flu vaccine the nation
will have this fall. Last year there was a surprise shortage after British
regulators shut down a U.S. supplier, Chiron Corp., because of the discovery
of contaminated vaccine.
Gerberding said officials are expecting between 71 million and 97 million
doses to be available, depending on how much Chiron can supply this year.
Officials had expected 100 million doses of flu vaccine last year before
Chiron's problems eliminated almost half from the potential supply. But flu
shots were rationed and fears of a shortage went unrealized.
The flu shot this year includes vaccines against two A-strain and one
B-strain flu viruses. A-strains are generally harsher.