FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 10, 2004) The Department for Public Health has notified health departments of the local option to expand the recommended groups to receive flu vaccine in Kentucky to include healthy people aged 50-64 years old.
The Centers for Disease Control issued guidance on priority groups at high risk for the complication from the flu in October when the nation’s flu supply was cut in half due to a manufacturing problem. DPH’s decision to expand the guidelines for Kentucky was based on reports from local health departments in most areas of the state that high-risk populations seeking to be vaccinated have been covered.
“Since the national flu vaccine shortage began, our number one priority in Kentucky has been to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens had access to our limited vaccine supply. We believe that our public health and private provider partners have or will soon be able to vaccinate most high-risk people that seek vaccination,” said Dr. William Hacker, Commissioner of Public Health. “With our flu season now underway, we hope expanding these guidelines on who can receive the flu vaccine this year in Kentucky will allow us to prevent more cases of the flu and to use all flu vaccine available.”
The group of people CDC has specified at the highest risk for flu complications includes: all children ages 6 - 23 months, adults 65 and older; persons age 2 - 64 with chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, health care workers involved in direct patient care, and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old. Health departments and private providers in Kentucky now have the option of vaccinating those in the 50-64 age group as well.
Dr. Hacker also urged those in the high risk and expanded groups seeking vaccine to check with local health departments or other providers. “Additional shipments of flu vaccine are still scheduled to arrive at some local health departments and health providers’ offices throughout December and possibly into January—depending on demand—so people in these recommended groups should continue to try to get their flu shot as soon as vaccine becomes available.”
Kentucky reported local flu activity to the CDC in its weekly surveillance report this week.
Dr. Hacker said, “Speaking as a physician, I’d also like to remind people that there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent flu and other illnesses that normally circulate at this time of year. You should follow the advice your mother gave you – wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you’re sick – in order to protect others.”
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is an acceptable alternative to the flu shot for healthy persons ages 5-49.
For more information about the flu, see the CDC’s website at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/, which will also be keeping a weekly map of flu activity reported across the nation at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivity.htm.