Officials with the Department of Health today announced they are coordinating a statewide survey to determine how much flu vaccine is available in Louisiana.

According to Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for immunizations with DHH’s Office of Public Health, the survey is in response to the influenza vaccine shortage that resulted following the announcement last week one vaccine maker will not provide adult influenza vaccine to the United States this year.

“Our goal is to assist communities in determining which health care providers have the vaccine and which ones do not,” Welch explained. “This survey is purely informational, but it is an important first step if we are to succeed at ensuring that as many high-risk people as possible get vaccinated.”

Throughout the state, regional medical directors with DHH’s Office of Public Health are being asked to identify health care providers in their region who normally offer the flu shot and survey them for vaccine availability.

According to Dr. Welch, the survey asks if a health care provider ordered adult influenza vaccine this year, how many doses were ordered, with what company the order was placed and how many doses of the adult vaccine have been received.

“I want to stress that at this time we are not directing providers to redistribute their vaccine, but only to better determine where there are supplies and in what quantities,” Welch explained. “Our hope is to get enough information to best direct at-risk people to locations where they can get this important vaccine.”

The following are the high-risk groups who should seek vaccination for the flu:

  • All children aged 6-23 months;
  • Adults aged 65 years and older;
  • Persons aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions
  • All women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Children aged 6 months-18 years on chronic aspirin therapy
  • Health care workers involved in direct patient care
  • Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged <6 months

Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH Secretary, said healthy adults, who are not in one of the priority groups, are asked to forego or defer getting the flu shot this year.

“We are asking people to be aware of the urgent vaccine supply situation,” he said. “Although catching the flu is serious for everyone, it is extremely dangerous for people in the at-risk categories where death is a possibility.”

Officials stress there are some easy and common sense measures to reduce the risk of getting the flu. Both Dr. Cerise and Dr. Welch say practicing good hygiene such as hand washing and covering your mouth may greatly reduce the risk of getting colds and flu.

Other precautions include:

Avoid close contact – Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick – If possible, stay home from work or school when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth.
See poster at the LDH website

Due to the limited supply of vaccine that is controlled by the Department of Health and Hospitals, parish health units will only be administering vaccines to the following groups: elderly over 65 years, children between 6-23 months, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, people with chronic health conditions and people on chronic aspirin therapy.

For more information citizens are urged to contact their primary care physician or the CDC Immunization Hotline at 800-232-2522.