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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
October 29, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
609-984-7160


 
DHSS Issues Order on Administration of Influenza Vaccine


 

TRENTON -- Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. today issued an administrative order requiring health care professionals to administer influenza vaccine only to those people at high risk of serious, flu-related complications and their caregivers.

 

Physicians, nurses, pharmacies, health care facilities and others who dispense vaccine are covered by the order, which carries out legislation Governor James E. McGreevey signed October 27, 2004.

 

“Doses of vaccine given to healthy people are doses not available to protect young children, the frail elderly, or those with significant chronic diseases,” said Commissioner Lacy.

 

“In the vast majority of cases, health care providers are already giving available vaccine only to high-risk individuals.  This order further supports providers by adding the force of law,” added Dr. Lacy.

 

In addition, the department currently has no intention of reallocating any vaccine held by any entity in the state.

 

The CDC has identified the following priority groups to be vaccinated this season:

  • children aged 6–23 months;
  • adults aged 65 years and older;
  • persons aged 2–64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions;
  • all women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
  • children aged 6 months–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.

 

Aventis Pasteur has shipped more than 41 million doses of inactivated vaccine to date, including four million this week. Several county and local health departments have received additional shipments of vaccine this week that they purchased off of a state contract. Aventis plans to ship several million doses weekly as the vaccine is produced.

 

To further increase public awareness, the Department of Health and Senior Services has produced radio and television public service announcements (PSA) that will air on New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York stations.

 

The PSAs stress the importance of vaccinating only high-risk people and outline steps people can take to protect themselves and others.  These include staying home when ill, covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and washing hands frequently.  Seniors and those with chronic medical conditions are also encouraged to receive pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against a type of pneumonia that can be contracted as a complication of influenza.

 

FluMist, the live attenuated, nasally administered vaccine, is approved for use by healthy people ages 5 to 49.  Its manufacturer, MedImmune Inc., plans to produce three million doses, and will ship 400,000 doses a week for five weeks beginning in November.  Another one million doses will be shipped in January.

 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Aventis are currently assessing the need for vaccine in long-term cares facilities and hospitals.

 

The department is also planning to distribute about 8,000 doses of available vaccine the state purchased with federal funds to health care facilities and Federally Qualified Health Centers to immunize employees working in areas where high-risk patients are treated.

 

Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., state epidemiologist and senior assistant commissioner, pointed out that there are measures New Jersey residents should take to protect themselves from the flu and other respiratory viruses: avoid people who are ill, stay home when sick, and practice Universal Respiratory Precautions including covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using tissues to contain respiratory secretions and promptly disposing of them, and washing hands thoroughly and often.

 

“We also strongly recommend that seniors and people with chronic health problems receive their pneumococcal vaccine as directed by their health care provider,” said Dr. Bresnitz. “If you do get the flu, this vaccine will protect you from a type of pneumonia that can be contracted as a complication of influenza.”

 

New Jersey’s influenza season typically occurs between October and early April, with the peak period of occurrence in January and February.  The state currently has no confirmed flu cases.

 

The department has set up a toll-free telephone hotline to answer questions related to the vaccine shortage from the public and health care providers.  So far, the hotline has received more than 18,000 calls – far more than the 6,000 received during the state’s anthrax incidents in 2001. 

 

Anyone with questions about influenza and this year’s vaccine supply can call the

DHSS hotline at 1-866-234-0964 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information on influenza, please visit the department’s web site at: http://nj.gov/health/flu.

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