Military has received about 60 percent of its expected flu vaccine supply
Stars and Stripes October 23, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. military fared slightly better than the rest of the nation in getting its supply of flu vaccines, but still cannot inoculate all those who might want to get the vaccine this season, the Pentagon’s top health official said.
The Defense Department received about 60 percent of its anticipated doses and, because of the shortfall, is vaccinating first all deploying troops and those dependents who are “high risk,” said William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for Health Affairs.
“Our plan is to ensure that all of our operationally deployed servicemembers and all of our high-risk beneficiaries will be vaccinated this flu season and will be vaccinated on time,” he said.
The Pentagon had banked on getting about 3.7 million doses this year, but instead received about 2.1 million doses, Winkenwerder said.
While it is enough to inoculate deploying forces, with those in the U.S. Central Command and South Korea receiving priority, and those high risk, such as the elderly, infants, pregnant women and those with illnesses, the shortage leaves thousands of troops and dependents exposed.
The department is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in identifying those in the high-risk category, which includes children ages 6 months to 2 years, adults older than 65, pregnant women, women caring for children younger than 6 months, health-care providers and anyone with underlying health conditions.
The department also is getting 250,000 doses of flu mist to help compensate for the shortage and will have that full stock by the end of November, Winkenwerder said.
The flu vaccine shortage came about because one of the providers to the United States, Chiron Corp., based in Great Britain, lost its license because some of the supply might have been contaminated.
The DOD will launch a “stay well” campaign to guard against catching the flu, with tips such as washing hands frequently and not touching one’s face.