Elderly flagged for flu shots

Hawaii’s highest priority for the distribution of publicly-held vaccine are the frail elderly confined to long-term care facilities, the state State Department of Health (DOH) announced today. “They are our most vulnerable to complications from the flu and should be protected,” said director Dr. Chiyome Fukino. The state had met with local health care providers, pharmacies, and federal agencies to discuss a strategy for allocating Hawaii’s limited supply of publicly-held vaccine. The vaccine supply was originally designated for public clinics.

Dr. Sarah Park of the department’s Disease Outbreak and Control Division said: “In the next few weeks we will have a better idea of the actual supply of vaccine in Hawaii. It’s still early in the flu season and there is time to plan on how best to meet the needs of our most vulnerable. We must be sure to first protect the very old, the very young and those very sick.”

State officials say Hawaii is better off than some other states, since it ordered vaccine from other providers. California and New Mexico were more dependent on Chiron, the company whose facilities were unexpectedly shut down last week.

The department is urging physicians and the public to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on who should receive flu vaccine. The agency says vaccine should only be administered to those in high-risk groups, identified as:

  • Children 6-23 months
  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Chronically ill
  • Pregnant women

Others — including health-care workers involved in direct patient care, out-of-home caregivers and those with children less than six months old — are encouraged to look at alternatives to the flu shot, specifically the FluMist nasal-spray flu vaccine.

The state also urges the public to take other precautions against the flu, including:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Washing your hands frequently.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Touching something contaminated with germs (doorknob, phone or faucet) and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth can spread infection.
  • Seek care early. See your doctor immediately if you develop flu symptoms.

Hawaii residents seeking additional information on the flu and the availability of flu vaccine can call 211.

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