Support our mission
 

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Shipments of influenza vaccine are slowly trickling into military medical clinics in Europe, even as the federal government announced Thursday that 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been diverted from the military.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the vaccine — originally meant for federal employees and the military — was now being sent to high-risk civilian groups.

Instead, troops will receive the nasal spray vaccine FluMist, which offers similar protection but is recommended only for healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49, according to the Post report.

The move will have no affect on troops in Europe, Phillip Tegtmeier, a spokesman with the Europe Regional Medical Command, said Friday. The shots were intended for troops going through basic training or in the services’ job training schools, Tegtmeier said.

Because vaccines are in short supply, deploying troops are getting the shot first, then those most at risk of contracting the virus, ERMC spokeswoman Cynthia Vaughan said. Approximately 15,000 troops from U.S. Army Europe are currently deployed.

“We do expect enough influenza vaccine to vaccinate deploying soldiers and we will vaccinate high-risk patients,” Vaughn said. “We’re just not certain what time frame that will be in.”

Problems with one of the United States’ key suppliers has forced the military to pare down its vaccination program — normally available to all active-duty troops and their families — until supplies increase.

The shortage stems from the closure in England early this month of a Chiron Corp. factory, where nearly half the United States’ supply of the vaccine was made. British regulators cited manufacturing problems that could cause vaccine contamination.

U.S. Army Medical Command officials in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, have said an estimated 2.2 million servicemembers and high-risk beneficiaries worldwide will need the vaccine this year.

Vaughan would not provide the exact number of vaccines given to deployed troops from Europe so far, or say how many high-risk individuals need the shot here, saying it was a force-protection issue.

“Those patients know who they are,” Vaughan said.

In addition to giving priority to deploying and deployed troops, the Department of Defense is following National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in administering the vaccine.

The CDC recommends that healthy people between the ages of 2 and 64 forgo the shots this year. That will allow enough vaccine for deployed troops, the very young, very old and ill family members.

Immunization clinics in U.S. Air Forces in Europe have received 750 doses of the vaccine, which are intended for deployed troops only, USAFE spokesman Maj. Patrick Ryder said Thursday.

The command expects to receive another shipment in the next couple of weeks, with those shots given to deploying troops and high-risk patients, he said.

Influenza kills about 36,000 Americans each year, and as many as 500,000 people worldwide, according to the CDC’s Web site.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up