DOD health official says flu vaccine shortage is 'manageable'
Stars and Stripes October 31, 2004
As a result of the Pentagon’s ongoing efforts to get the influenza vaccine to deployed troops and high-risk individuals, there is a chance of a “low flu season,” the Department of Defense’s top health official said recently.
Dr. William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the shortage of flu shots is “a very manageable problem, a very manageable situation,” according to a news release from American Forces Press Service.
Although the military has received only 60 percent of the supply it requested, the military should be able to manage the situation without any difficulty, Winkenwerder said in the release.
In Europe, Army medical officials have received very little of the vaccine so far, but will make every effort to make sure troops and high-risk individuals are taken care of, said Cynthia Vaughn, spokeswoman for the European Regional Medical Center.
“The vaccines we have received so far were sent downrange,” Vaughn said in a telephone interview Saturday. “And the vaccines that we expect to receive in November will be given to soldiers who are expected to deploy.”
But, Vaughn said, as soon as more of the vaccine becomes available, the medical command would let high-risk individuals know where they can go to get vaccinated.
“We will be putting out information at the hospital, at the clinics, and in the news media to let them know the vaccine is available,” Vaughn said. “We will identify who they are and let them know where they can get (the shot).”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high-risk individuals are children ages 6 months to 2 years, adults older than 65, pregnant women and anyone with underlying health conditions. The CDC estimates that 84.9 million people fall into the high-risk category.
The CDC also suggests health care workers and those caring for children younger than 6 months receive the flu shot, bringing the total number of vaccines needed to 98.2 million, according to the CDC Web site.
The CDC estimates about 58 million doses of the vaccine will be available this flu season.
Because of the shortage, DOD health officials have started a campaign to help prevent the spread of the disease. In the news release, Winkenwerder mentioned preventive practices such as washing hands frequently and covering up when coughing or sneezing.
If a person feels sick, he said, “don’t come to work. Don’t spread an illness.”