12/30/04 — Flu shots restrictions loosened

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Flu shots restrictions loosened

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Published in News on December 30, 2004 2:00 PM

The state has loosened the restrictions on who can receive the flu vaccine.

People 50 and older, normally considered high-risk for flu but prevented from getting the vaccine because of the limited supply, will now be considered eligible.

State Health Director Lean Devlin announced this week that the N.C. Division of Public Health has changed the restrictions, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Dr. Devlin also recommended that household contacts of people in the high risk groups seek the vaccine.

The changes take effect on Monday. The more stringent guidelines were made in early October, when one of the manufacturers of the vaccines announced that its supply was contaminated, cutting the nation's supply in half.

Dr. Devlin said there is still time to get immunized.

"North Carolina's flu season usually doesn't peak until late February, so people in high-risk groups should get vaccinated now," she said. "We want to make sure that we protect as many people as possible from the flu and its complications."

Dr. Devlin said she is concerned that high-risk people may not get vaccinated, believing that the vaccine is unavailable. In November, a survey about health issues showed that only 40 percent of the adults in high-risk categories have been immunized in the state, as compared to 60.1 percent in the 2003 flu season.

"More than 30 percent of the high-risk people who had not been vaccinated said they were saving the vaccine for people who need it more," Dr. Devlin said. "Our message is that the vaccine is available for high-risk individuals and they need to be immunized."

The Division's Immunization Section estimated that 1,205,272 doses were needed to immunize people covered by the earlier recommendations. The state has received a total of 1,227,150 doses from public and private sources combined, so has already exceeded the number of doses needed to cover those groups.

The number of doses is expected to grow because of 78,000 additional doses expected by the state in early January.