County health departments and the Oregon Department of Human Services are trying to ensure that everyone who wants a flu shot can get one.
The agencies are working to redistribute vaccine to local providers who have short supplies and to areas of the state that have experienced vaccine delays.
"We appreciate the willingness of county health departments to help coordinate the redistribution of the vaccine, and we also appreciate the private providers who are stepping up to help others in their communities share this limited resource," said Susan Allan, M.D., state public health officer at the Department of Human Services. "State and local public health departments will do their best to assist providers in areas experiencing the longest delays."
Local health departments are creating lists of medical providers who need vaccine and matching them with other local providers who have vaccine to share at the original purchase price, Allan said. If a local source of vaccine isn't available, then the Department of Human Services Immunization Program will try to match the provider with a source of vaccine elsewhere in the state.
She said Oregon has received more than 655,000 doses of influenza vaccine, significantly more than the about 600,000 received for the 2004-2005 flu season. However, eight Oregon counties — Benton, Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Linn, Malheur, Union and Wheeler — are experiencing significant shortages, she said. The doses Oregon has received are among 71 million already distributed nationwide, with 10 to 12 million more expected to be shipped by the end of November.
In the United States, commercial manufacturers manage vaccine supplies and distribution. Allan said that because unexpected delays are creating difficulty for many providers, all providers are being asked to try to vaccinate high-priority groups first.
The high-priority groups are:
• Children age 6 to 23 months;
• Adults age 65 and older;
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
• Anyone age 2 to 64 with underlying medical conditions;
• Pregnant women;
• Health care personnel who provide direct patient care; and
• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children younger 6 months.
An alternative to the injectible vaccine is Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, or LAIV, a nasal spray marketed as FluMist.
"We're encouraging healthy people between 5 and 49 who want vaccine, including health care workers and people in contact with infants, to ask for LAIV," Allan said. "Choosing LAIV means you are helping to conserve inactivated influenza vaccine and it may help you avoid spreading the flu to others who are more vulnerable than you. Your decision could save a life."
Locating available flu vaccine has gotten easier: Oregon SafeNet and the Lung Association of Oregon have joined forces to post Oregon flu clinics on the American Lung Association of Oregon Web site, www.lungoregon.org. Those without access to the Internet can call SafeNet toll-free at 1-800-723-3638.