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Flu vaccine won't be available to all

By Staff
Leada Gore, Hartselle Enquirer
Shortages in the influenza vaccine may mean it will only be available to those at the most risk of complications from the disease, according to state health officials.
Alabama Department of Public Health officials are working with the hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to ensure those at the highest risk of severe complications of influenza have access to the vaccination. Other people, health officials said, may not be able to take the vaccine this year.
"We are asking that pharmacies delay their vaccine initiatives and then target them to high-risk individuals. Both small and large pharmacies have been very cooperative in directing all available influenza vaccine for this season to those individuals at highest risk and health care workers who provide their direct care," Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said.
Letters detailing the shortages were mailed to Alabama doctors and pharmacists last week.
"We urge other healthy Alabamians to forego or delay influenza vaccinations this year."
Contamination problems in overseas plants that manufacture the vaccination has caused the shortage. As a result, the vaccination is being recommended only for high-risk groups, including:
All children ages 6 to 23 months.
Adults age 65 or older.
Anyone age 2-64 with underlying chronic medical conditions.
All women who will be pregnant during influenza season.
Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Children 6 months to 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy.
Healthcare workers with direct patient care and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than six months old.
Healthy people ages 2 to 64 are asked to not get vaccinated this year or to wait until later in the year.
"Regrettably, vaccine shortages will dictate there will not be enough vaccine for everyone this year," Williamson said. "There will be clients who will not be able to receive immunization for this year at their local health departments unless they fall in the high-risk groups."
The State Health Department has already cancelled four mass influenza vaccinations planned for later this month.
So what can you do if you can't take the flu vaccine but don't want to spend half the winter sick? There are two main things, according to health officials. The first is to ask those around you to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough. The other – and the simplest – is to wash your hands often with antibacterial soap.
Officials also advise staying home if you have the flu to keep from spreading it to your work or school.