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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 20, 2004

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Surveying Statewide Health Care Providers to Assess Demand for Flu Vaccine


 

     

          TRENTON -- Health care providers statewide are being surveyed to determine if more influenza vaccine is needed for high-risk/high-priority individuals before the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services decides whether to expand vaccine availability to other groups, Acting Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. announced today.

          An additional 121,300 doses of unallocated adult and pediatric flu vaccine are currently available for New Jersey providers to purchase for patients at high risk for serious flu complications. 

          Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices expanded the list of flu vaccine priority groups to include adults age 50 to 64, and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of those in high-risk/high-priority groups.  However, any expansion depends on flu vaccine availability in state and local health jurisdictions.  Where the vaccine supply is adequate to meet the demand by current high risk/high priority individuals, public health authorities may expand priority groups as of early January.

          "New Jersey is trying to ensure that its most vulnerable citizens can get flu shots if they want them, so we're giving hospitals, doctors, clinics and others an opportunity to order vaccine for their high-risk patients," said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey.

          “We don’t want any of the vaccine available to New Jersey to go to waste.  We must also make sure that the high-risk/high-priority people who want vaccine get it.  As a result, the department sent out a survey today to gather the information we need to decide whether New Jersey can offer flu vaccine to healthy people under age 65,” Dr. Jacobs said.

          Surveys must be returned by January 3, and the department will then decide whether to broaden the eligibility criteria.

          Surveys are being sent to local health departments, hospitals, long-term care facilities, federally qualified health centers and physicians.  The surveys ask if providers have extra vaccine they would like to sell, whether they would like to buy more vaccine for high-risk/high-priority patients, and whether they would purchase more vaccine if the eligibility criteria were expanded.

          Surveys may be faxed to the department at: (609) 588-3642.  Survey forms may also be downloaded from the department’s web site at http://www.nj.gov/health/flu/, but cannot be filed on-line. 

          As a result of the season’s vaccine shortage, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services issued an administrative order in October requiring providers to vaccinate only those in the high risk/high-priority groups and their caregivers.

          Those in the high-risk/high priority group are: children aged 6 to 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.

          About 406,000 vaccine doses ordered through the DHSS have been shipped to health care providers in New Jersey to date, and the remaining 23,000 doses will be shipped in January. 

          “This has been a challenging flu season, but we’ve been able to distribute the available vaccine fairly and make sure the high-risk/high priority people are covered,” said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and senior assistant commissioner.  “This has been possible through the close cooperation of hospitals, long-term care facilities, local health departments and many others.

          The department held a teleconference last Friday, December 17th, to update providers on the vaccine supply and plans to conduct the survey that is being distributed today.

          New Jersey’s influenza season usually occurs between October and early April, with the peak occurrence typically in January and February.  The state reported its first case of influenza earlier this month.  The state continues to have only sporadic flu activity this season.

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