State Health Officials Lift Flu Vaccine Eligibility Restrictions
Public Health Officer Richard Jackson on Friday lifted all age restrictions on the flu vaccine in an attempt to avoid wasting 400,000 adult doses and 265,000 pediatric doses held by the Department of Health Services, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/8).
Officials are "eager" to distribute the remaining doses of stockpiled vaccine because they expire at the end of the flu season, which usually occurs by April, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials said there is still time for individuals to be vaccinated because the flu season usually peaks in late January or early February (Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 1/8).
State immunization chief Howard Backer said that unless doctors purchase vaccine supplies, patients will still have access problems. Because unused vaccine cannot be returned to the manufacturer for a refund, Backer said many physicians have not wanted to risk buying vaccine that could be wasted. "We are arguing that the influenza disease season has held off, so it's still worthwhile to get it," Backer said.
Thirty people in Northern California have tested positive for the flu virus this season, according to Roger Baxter, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente who oversees flu monitoring in the region for DHS. More than 400 cases were reported during last year's flu season, which peaked in November 2003.
Sacramento County Health Officer Glennah Trochet "applauded the state's move Friday and urged doctors to take advantage of the opportunity," the Sacramento Bee reports. "We will make sure their order goes through as quickly as possible," she said, adding, "It's still not too late" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 1/8).