Flu Shots Set for Servicemembers, High-Risk Populations
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2004 Deployed and deploying servicemembers are among the priority groups for receiving the flu vaccine, Defense Department officials said here today.
While the department is affected by the British rejection of Chiron flu vaccine, all high-risk beneficiaries and all operationally deployed servicemembers will be vaccinated on time this flu season.
Officials said there are about 2.2 million servicemembers and high-risk beneficiaries. The immunization program begins this week.
Troops deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations and to the Republic of Korea are DoD's highest priority, and the department already has shipped vaccine to those theaters, officials said. High-risk beneficiaries who will receive priority on the flu shots are: children ages 6 to 23 months, adults over 65, persons ages 2 to 64 with underlying health conditions, all pregnant women, women caring for children under 6 months old, and health care workers.
DoD has another source of the vaccine. The department has 1.3 million doses coming from Aventis Pasteur a company unaffected by the British action against Chiron. Aventis has delivered 680,000 doses already, with the rest coming in the next eight weeks. The department also is pursuing a contract with the makers of the nasal flu vaccine Flumist. This can be used only by healthy persons between the ages of 2 and 49.
Healthy servicemembers who are not scheduled for deployment will be deferred from receiving the vaccination until the more critical categories receive their shots, officials said.
Flu vaccinations are mandatory for servicemembers. The flu is a contagious illness, and depending on the strain, can cause illness or even death. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, between 5 percent and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year.