News Release
  
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   August 20, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS: Laura Otterbourg, 609-984-7160
MSNJ: Larry Downs, 609-896-1766, x. 258

PRONJ: Cari Miller, 732-238-5570

 

Flu Vaccine Supply Expected to Meet Demand
Persons in High-Risk Groups Advised to Get Flu Shot in October;
Clinics Asked to Start Later, Run Though December



TRENTON - The makers of flu vaccine believe they will produce enough doses this year to ensure that senior citizens and other persons at higher risk of serious illness due to influenza can get properly immunized before flu season hits, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

"Vaccine manufacturers have given projections to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, based on their estimates, there will be a greater volume of vaccine produced this year than last year, when there were nationwide delays in delivery," said State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner Eddy Bresnitz, MD. Manufacturers expect to produce and distribute more than 77 million doses of flu vaccine this year.

Flu vaccines are traditionally given in the fall and early winter, but manufacturing problems last season resulted in partial or late vaccine shipments. As a result, many adult immunization clinics were cancelled and private medical practices had difficulty obtaining vaccine for their patients.

While more vaccine is being produced this year, deliveries will be staggered through December. To ensure that last year's problems do not resurface, the department and the CDC are joining with the Medical Society of New Jersey and the Peer Review Organization of New Jersey, Inc. (PRONJ) in recommending that adult immunization clinics not be scheduled before late-October or early-November and that they run through the end of December. Traditionally, flu clinics start in late-September and end just before Thanksgiving.

"Private physicians, who see the majority of high-risk patients, were particularly hard hit by last year's vaccine delay," said Angelo Agro, MD, President of the Medical Society of New Jersey. "To avoid a similar scenario this flu season, medical practices should follow-up on their vaccine orders now and high-risk patients should be encouraged to schedule immunization appointments for October."

"Influenza and pneumococcal diseases are preventable illnesses thanks to immunization. We encourage all of New Jersey's older adults and others in high-risk groups to get the flu shot and the pneu shot this year," said PRONJ Medical Director Edward Josell, DO.

Influenza is a serious illness that causes symptoms that include fever, aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, and chills. When people over 65 or those with chronic health problems, such as diabetes, get the flu, they are more likely to develop complications which can lead to hospitalization and a loss of independence. Flu and pneumonia account for more than 2,000 deaths of New Jersey residents each year.

In addition to the flu vaccine, which must be reformulated each year in anticipation of the strains that may be prevalent that year, a longer-lasting vaccine offering protection against pneumococcal diseases is also recommended for seniors and other high-risk groups. The pneu shot is generally given only once after age 65 and contains 85-90% of the pneumococcal serotypes that cause diseases such as bacteremia, meningitis and pneumonia.

The flu and pneumococcal vaccines are both covered by Medicare and Medicaid and these programs fully reimburse health care providers for immunizing eligible seniors. In addition to private doctors' offices, both shots are available at local immunization clinics held throughout the state each fall by health departments, visiting nurse associations and other health care providers. New Jersey also requires long-term care centers and hospitals to assess for and offer influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations to senior citizen residents and patients.

Beginning in late-October, the Department of Health and Senior Services, in conjunction with local health departments throughout the state, will post a listing of flu immunization clinics, dates, times and locations on its website at www.state.nj.us/health.

People without web access can get information on local clinics by contacting their county office on aging, local health department, by calling NJ EASE toll-free at 1-877-222-3737, or by calling PRONJ's Health Hotline toll-free at 1-866-269-4325.

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