Vaccination Now Available for All Alaskans
January 07, 2005
"Since the national crisis with the influenza vaccine shortage began, our No. 1 goal in Alaska has been to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have first access to the limited vaccine supply," said Dr. Richard Mandsager, Director of the Division of Public Health. "Because Alaska providers have successfully provided multiple opportunities for high risk persons to receive the vaccine, we now recommend that remaining vaccine doses be used for anyone wishing to receive the immunization. We want to use all of our remaining vaccine to ensure as many people as possible are protected from influenza."
In early October the nation's anticipated 100 million doses of vaccine were cut in half when one of the two manufacturers was unable to distribute any vaccine. At that time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that available vaccine be used only for persons at highest risk of complications from influenza. All states, including Alaska, followed these guidelines. Public and private providers in Alaska responded with outreach programs for the designated populations.
In early December, after the majority of these high risk persons had the opportunity to obtain vaccine, the Department expanded the recommended target group to include persons age 50 and above, as well as people in close contact with high risk persons. In late December it appeared the majority of high risk Alaskans who wished to be vaccinated had obtained vaccine, and Alaska shared 13,000 doses of vaccine with North Carolina, a state with inadequate vaccine to reach its high-risk populations. The Department now recommends that remaining Alaska vaccine be used for any person wishing to be protected against influenza.
"The Division of Public Health wishes to thank Alaskans for their patience and understanding with the difficult circumstances that have surrounded this year's influenza vaccine season," said Mandsager. "I also want to thank Alaska's health care community for doing an excellent job in managing the flu vaccine shortage across the state."
It's not too late to be vaccinated against influenza. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective. Although influenza activity has been low so far this year, we still may see increased illness in January or February, the traditional peak of the influenza season. The Division recommends that persons who normally receive influenza vaccine but who deferred on behalf of those at highest risk should now request the vaccine, while supplies last. Vaccine availability may vary by location around the state. Persons seeking a flu shot should check with their local health provider or public health center about vaccine availability in the area.
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