State Issues Order Mandating That Providers Limit Flu Shots to CDC-Designated High-Risk Patients
Public Health Officer Richard Jackson on Friday issued an order mandating that all health care providers in the state limit influenza vaccinations to those at highest risk of serious illness or death from flu, a move intended to give providers the authority to withhold vaccination from those who do not meet CDC criteria for high-risk patients, the Sacramento Bee reports.
According to the order, all health care providers must limit flu vaccinations to children ages six months to 23 months; adults ages 65 and older; people ages two to 64 with chronic medical conditions; pregnant women; nursing home residents; children taking aspirin; health care workers; out-of-home caregivers; and those with household contact with children younger than age six months.
The order "stops short of declaring an emergency," which would allow state health officials to repossess and redistribute flu vaccine supplies, the Bee reports.
Jackson said officials will not be "policing vaccine lines" or asking providers to surrender unused supplies. Instead, the government will rely on the "good will" of providers and patients. Jackson said the state would purchase unused vaccine supplies.
"This is not an emergency," Jackson said, adding, "That said, it is a situation that requires good judgment and taking care of those most at need first" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 10/9). He said, "It's important that Californians understand the seriousness of the vaccine shortage. Every flu shot that's given to a healthy individual means that someone else who really needs it runs the risk of serious illness and death" (Landhuis, San Jose Mercury News, 10/9).
County health departments can issue their own immunization orders and citations for violators to "beef up enforcement," the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 10/9). Both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties declared a state of "local emergency" following the state's order on Friday.
The declarations are intended to "allow the public to realize how grave the [flu vaccine shortage] is," Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County health officer, said (San Jose Mercury News, 10/9). Other counties in the Bay Area are expected to issue similar orders soon.
The orders come as some providers has reported flu long lines for vaccinations across the state. Maxim Health Systems, which operates flu vaccine programs in grocery stores and drugstores, said wait times at some locations have reached seven hours (Gathright, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11).