CDC Lifts Recommendations on Recipients of Flu Vaccinations
CDC on Monday lifted its recommendations to doctors on who should receive early flu vaccines and said all U.S. residents older than age six months should be vaccinated, the Washington Times reports (Harper, Washington Times, 10/25).
After last year's shortage of flu vaccine, federal officials established guidelines this year recommending that doctors vaccinate only high-risk patients through Oct. 23. High-risk patients include the elderly, the very young, those with chronic illnesses and health care providers. Now, with the guidelines lifted, federal health officials said there should be an adequate supply of flu shots overall this year, despite spot shortages in certain areas.
"We expect that where they lack vaccines, the situation will improve," CDC Director Julie Gerberding said, adding, "This is the same pattern that we see every year, and over time we will catch up." CDC expects 70 million to 88 million doses to be available this year, many of which will arrive in the coming weeks (Harris, New York Times, 10/25).
With flu outbreaks already reported in nine states, CDC and other groups are urging all U.S. residents to be inoculated. CDC is asking doctors to make strong "emotional appeals" to minority patients who might be reluctant to receive flu vaccinations because of misconceptions that the inoculation can cause the flu (Washington Times, 10/25).
In addition, Gerberding said those who develop flu symptoms -- particularly if they are in a high-risk group -- should "definitely" contact a doctor to ask if a prescription for an antiviral, such as Roche Holding's Tamiflu, would be helpful (CQ HealthBeat, 10/24).
Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association, said, "In an era when new and emerging diseases, such as the H5N1 avian flu virus, are potential public health threats, Americans should not forget to take proper precautions to protect their health." The group has called on Congress and the Bush administration to develop regional flu preparedness plans and to establish a federal vaccine purchase program for uninsured U.S. adults (Washington Times, 10/25).
In related news, several newspapers published articles addressing avian flu. Summaries appear below.
- "Top Health Officials Meet on Flu Threat": Health ministers from 30 nations, the World Health Organization and the United Nations are meeting in Ottawa, Canada, this week to discuss global preparations to combat avian flu (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/25).
- "Harkin to Push for More Spending on Avian Flu Vaccine": Senate Democrats on Monday said they will offer an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that would increase federal spending for development and production of a possible avian flu vaccine (Swindell, CQ Today, 10/24).
- "FDA Promises To Expedite Bird Flu Drug": FDA said on Monday it will work to expedite manufacturing Tamiflu -- the treatment considered most effective against avian flu -- and has established a "rapid response team" to "ease roadblocks" to manufacturing Tamiflu and other anti-flu products in the event of a pandemic, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/24).
- "Taiwan Says it Copied Flu Drug Made by Roche": The Wall Street Journal examines Taiwanese health officials' announcement that researchers had created a version of Tamiflu in 18 days that was chemically identical to Roche's drug and 99% pure (Dean et al., Wall Street Journal, 10/25).