Deployed Troops, High-Risk Groups to Get Flu Shots on Time
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2004 All deployed and deploying servicemembers and high-risk beneficiaries will be vaccinated on time this flu season, the Defense Department's chief medical officer said here Oct. 21.
Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said changes made in the flu vaccination program make him "confident that this will allow us to sustain our military mission."
He said the revised plan protects military medical beneficiaries most at risk. "The health and well-being of our troops and our military beneficiaries are our priorities," he said.
The doctor said for servicemembers and their families not part of these categories, DoD "will be conducting a vigorous public health campaign against the flu."
Winkenwerder said the effect on DoD of the flu vaccine shortage is similar to that on rest of nation. He estimated DoD has 60 percent of the vaccine it had last year, which is slightly better than the general nationwide situation.
Deployed troops and those deploying get priority for flu vaccinations. "We are committed to protecting our troops who go in harm's way every way we can," Winkenwerder said. The program has started for troops already deployed and for troops readying to leave.
Winkenwerder praised the commitment of Aventis Pasteur the maker of the flu vaccine to America's fighting forces.
For the high-risk population, DoD will follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines. High-risk groups are children between 6 months and 2 years old, adults over 65, those with underlying health problems, health care professionals, pregnant women and caregivers in direct contact with infants.
DoD ordered 3.6 million to 3.7 million doses of vaccine for this flu season. In a usual flu season, all active duty servicemembers and their families and all beneficiaries in a military direct-care system would receive a shot.
"This year we'll be working with at least 2.1 million doses, most provided by Aventis Pasteur," Winkenwerder said.
The department also is receiving an order of 50,000 doses of FluMist, a nasal spray flu vaccine. The department will receive 200,000 more doses of FluMist in late November, or early December, he said.