September 28, 2005
Flu Shot Season Begins for Priority Groups
Augusta, Maine – The season for flu shots is underway with young children, elders, and caregivers among priority groups that should get their shots in the next few weeks.
“We do not anticipate a shortage of flu vaccine this year, however, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our public health program believe those most vulnerable to the health effects of flu should be vaccinated before October 24. We are asking others not in these groups to wait until after October 24,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Director.
High-priority groups for receiving flu shots before October 24 are those:
• 65 years and older;
• 2-64 years of age with chronic diseases such as asthma or cancer, or other co-morbid conditions;
• 6-23 months of age;
• Residents of long-term care facilities;
• Pregnant women;
• Healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care;
• Caregivers of children <6 months of age.
“People are asking what this coming season will be like. The most predictable thing about flu is that it is unpredictable,” Dr. Mills said. “What we do know is that it usually makes an appearance in Maine in November, and peaks anytime between December and March.”
Last year’s flu season, though complicated by an early season shortage, turned out to be relatively mild in severity in Maine and nationwide. But, tragically, two Maine children died of influenza last winter, reminding that even in a relatively mild season, flu is deadly, Dr. Mills said.
“Whether or not you get vaccinated, it is important for all of us to do our part to stop the spread of flu and other winter viruses by covering our coughs and sneezes, washing our hands, and staying home if we’re ill,” she said..
The following are sources for information about getting a flu shot:
• Doctors and other health care providers often give appointments for a flu shot or refer to a local place where shots are available.
• Visit http://findaflushot.com/ for the schedule of schedule of a private company initiative to offer flu shots in supermarkets and pharmacies, beginning in October.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is distributing about 140,000 flu vaccine doses to approximately 1,000 doctors and other health care providers. For more information on flu, see the Influenza 2005-2006 item at www.mainepublichealth.gov