Ample supply of flu vaccine expected at Europe bases
Flu season: people forced inside by the winter, sneezing, touching and spreading germs.
It’s coming, and so are flu shots for residents of military communities in Europe. The first shots are expected to be given around Nov. 1 and are expected to be in ample quantities.
“The whole [schedule] depends on vaccine supply,” said Col. Allen J. Kraft, director of the Force Health Protection Office for the European Regional Medical Command and U.S. Army Europe.
“Just be patient. The vaccine is on its way. We will get to you.”
Once the vaccines are in hand, military communities are expected to publicize the schedules for vaccinations.
“If someone doesn’t see the information, they should call their supporting health care facility and just ask,” Kraft said.
Last year there was a shortage of flu vaccine because the Food and Drug Administration took one manufacturer’s plants off its list of approved production sites. No such problem is expected this year, Kraft said.
It was an unusual situation and resulted in only high-priority patients receiving the vaccine. Even though ample vaccine is predicted for this year, Kraft said, there is still a pecking order for administering the shots.
In Europe, first up will be troops and civilians who will be deploying to war zones.
Next in line are senior citizens and others with weak immune systems, as well as health care workers, followed by other military personnel, then mission-essential civilians and contractors, and then everyone else.
Kraft said he hoped everyone would be immunized by the end of the year.
These vaccines for the “regular” flu should not be confused with Department of Defense efforts to prepare for a possible outbreak of the so-called avian flu.
The DOD is stockpiling vaccine to combat the avian flu and amassing antiviral drugs, according to a Thursday DOD release. So far, it has about 200,000 doses of vaccine against one avian flu strain, and is mass producing it.
The avian flu has killed millions of domesticated and wild birds in Asia. At least 116 humans have caught the virus, and about half of them have died, the release said.
So far, the avian flu has not shown an ability to transmit between humans, but the DOD was preparing for a possible outbreak in case of a genetic mutation of the virus that allows human-to-human transmission.
The DOD ordered combatant commands to develop emergency influenza preparedness and response plans. The Pacific Command has completed its plans, and the other commands are finishing theirs, the release said.
There’s a difference between a cold and the “regular” flu, although both are contagious respiratory ailments that can cause clogged sinuses, hacking lungs and aching muscles, according to Dr. (Lt. Col.) William Corr, chief of preventive medicine at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“Colds are typically milder and not the type of illness that can cause people to be bedridden,” Corr said.
Flu could also cause nausea and vomiting, Corr said, and cause people to miss work. Commanders and other supervisors, he said, are therefore encouraged to require their employees to get flu shots.
A flu shot, Corr said, will build up the body’s immune system and help prevent catching the flu. It takes about two weeks after a flu shot for the body to become immune.
Colds and the flu are preventable, Corr said. Washing hands frequently, sneezing into a tissue or on the sleeve instead of the hand, and spending time in fresh air and well-ventilated places can lessen the chance of getting sick.
Corr said that there is one other way to help lessen the impact of flu.
“Don’t go to work,” Corr said. “If you have high fever and are throwing up, even if you are a hard-charger, take it easy. Take fluids and Tylenol, stay at home and don’t spread the disease.”
Those eligible to receive flu shots, in order of priority:
A) Deploying troops and civilians.
B) Senior citizens, children ages 6 months to 2 years, people of medically high risk, and health care workers.
C) Those in basic training (not applicable in Europe).
D) All other military personnel.
E) Other mission-essential Department of Defense civilians and contractors.
F) All other healthy people ages 2 and up.
— European Regional Medical Command