October 21, 2003
Department of Human Services Delivers Influenza Vaccine Statewide
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a disease of the lungs which can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized because of the flu and approximately 20,000 will die as a result. Most of these fatalities are people over 65 years of age.
“I’ll be scheduling my flu shot, and I encourage others at risk to do the same,” said Peter E. Walsh, Acting DHS Commissioner. “We make this vaccine available to health care providers for free,” he noted, “so that they, in turn, can provide it to low income Maine people for no more than five dollars.”
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of the Bureau of Health and the State’s Health Officer, recommends that everyone over the age of 50 receive a flu shot. In addition, anyone 6 months to 49 years of age who has, or is in close contact with someone who has, a chronic disease (such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma) should be vaccinated for the flu. Dr. Mills further stated that women who will be in the second or third trimester of a pregnancy during the next six months also receive a flu shot.
“Now is an excellent time to get vaccinated,” Dr. Mills added. “The flu season usually begins in November and lasts through March, so it makes sense for people at risk to be ready as soon as they can within the next several weeks.”
Anyone interested in obtaining an influenza vaccine should first contact their health care provider. Supermarkets and pharmacies also offer flu clinics and may be a good resource for flu vaccine information. In addition, local newspapers will often post notices of flu clinics in their area.
The Department of Human Services Immunization Program Flu Website, http://www.immunizeme.org/flu.html, also provides information including a description of high-risk categories and an outline of this year’s eligibility for state-supplied flu vaccine. Information is also available by calling the Maine Immunization Program at (207) 287-3746 or toll free (800) 867-4775.