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U.S. military health officials in Europe said Thursday that doses of the annual flu vaccine are arriving in the theater and that base clinics and hospitals soon will receive their allotments. No shortage is anticipated.

The main difference this flu season is that U.S. servicemembers and civilians between the ages of 5 and 49 will receive a vaccine in the form of a mist, similar to a nasal spray. That’s assuming the individual is healthy and not pregnant or possibly allergic to the spray.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2003, the product is known commercially as FluMist.

“The needles are out there, but FluMist will be the predominant vaccine,” said Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) William Corr, the preventive medicine consultant for the European Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg, Germany.

Officials would like children as old as 8 to get a second dose if they have never been vaccinated before.

Typically, the influenza season doesn’t start until November or December, with the peak period coming in February. Last year, about 300 cases were reported to U.S. Army medical facilities in Europe. None was fatal.

Flu vaccinations are mandatory for U.S. servicemembers.

“It’s a medical-readiness issue,” said Army Col. Theresa Moser, director of the force health protection office for ERMC.

For civilians, flu inoculations are optional but recommended, providing there are no conflicting health issues to consider.

In all, the U.S. Army has ordered 1.55 million dosages, according to Phillip Tegtmeier, an ERMC spokesman. Of that number, 862,000 dosages are of the mist type, with the balance being injections. Tegtmeier didn’t know what Europe’s portion would be, but he said supply won’t be an issue.

Bases across Europe will begin receiving the vaccines the second week of October, he added.

The Army receives and distributes flu vaccines for Navy and Air Force medical commands in Europe. Once communities receive their allotment, they will announce when and where people should go to get inoculated.

Officials in Naples, Italy, for instance, expect to start their program in early November, said Navy Lt. Sherry Hayes, an environmental officer.

Tech. Sgt. Corey Clements, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, encourages people to wait and listen for word in their local communities regarding inoculation dates and times.

Air Force medical personnel are not expecting any shortages, Clements said.

“They are expecting to get what they ordered for this year.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Sandra Jontz contributed to this story.


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