December 21, 2004
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials said today they will support the recommended expansion of flu shot priority target groups announced last Friday by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The recommendation -- which will not be effective until Jan. 3 -- adds people 50 and older, out-of-home caregivers for the high-risk, and household contacts of those at high risk of severe complications should they get the flu.
"The delayed implementation will give those in the current priority categories who haven't been vaccinated a few more days to find a flu shot," said Texas Commissioner of State Health Services Eduardo Sanchez. "The supply is still limited and may vary from city to city, but the vaccine has become more readily available in recent weeks. We urge those who have tried and failed to try again."
Sanchez emphasized that the recommendation allows local public health officials to continue to follow the more-restrictive recommendation if they believe the vaccine supply in their specific areas is not sufficient to cover the demand from members of the current high-risk groups.
The current priority groups are children 6 months through 23 months of age, adults 65 and older, anyone with underlying chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, children 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, medical care workers providing direct patient care and caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 months old.
DSHS is asking its regional offices and local public health departments to continue to serve as information clearinghouses to match up doctors and other providers who have the vaccine with those who need it. Doctors and other providers who have or need the vaccine should contact one of those offices.
People wanting to get a flu shot should -- in order -- contact their doctor, call the 2-1-1 information service and call their local public health department or nearest DSHS regional office.
Officials say it is not too late to get a flu shot. Flu season officially runs from October through May. In Texas, the heavy part of flu season typically occurs in late December, January and February.
It takes about two weeks after getting the flu shot for the vaccine to offer maximum protection.
(News Media: for more information contact Luis Morales, DSHS Communications Director, 512-458-7400.)