Following yesterday’s announcement that the United States faces a flu vaccination shortage this year, Louisiana public health officials are encouraging healthy citizens not in a high risk group to forgo their vaccines to ensure immunization of the most at-risk residents.

People who are classified as priority groups for the flu vaccine are:

  • all children aged 6-23 months
  • adults aged 65 years and older
  • people aged 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions
  • all women who will be pregnant during influenza season
  • residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • children 6 months-18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy
  • health-care workers with direct patient care
  • out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged < 6 months

In past years, the Department of Health has made the flu vaccine available to people in these groups first, then made the vaccine available to the general public. Through its parish health units located statewide, LDH provides only about 30 percent of all flu vaccines in the state. Other vaccines are provided through doctor’s offices, hospitals and private health care providers.

Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, said it is important for the public to understand the urgent situation with the vaccine supply.

“People who are not included in one of the priority groups might be asked to forego or defer vaccination until we have immunized those who most need a flu shot,” said Cerise. “With cooperation and understanding from the public, we anticipate having enough vaccines on hand to immunize everyone in our high-risk groups, despite the predicted shortage.”

Chiron Corp., a British company that was to supply the country with 48 million flu vaccines, was shut down and will not provide the vaccines for the upcoming flu season. Although Louisiana does not receive its share of the nation’s flu vaccines from that company, supplies across the country will be redistributed.

“It’s very likely that Louisiana, along with other states that receive vaccines from other companies, will be asked to share our supply so that we can have enough vaccine for the most at-risk groups nationwide,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the Department of Health Immunizations Program.

LDH will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal health agency that oversees flu shots for the country, Welch said.

For comment on flu vaccine shortages and Louisiana’s strategy, please contact the medical director of your local LDH Office of Public Health. Medical directors are:

New Orleans area:
Dr. Cassandra Youmans, (504) 599-0100

Baton Rouge area:
Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH Secretary (225) 342-1532
Dr. Roxane Townsend, LDH Medicaid Medical Director (225) 342-1532
Dr. Marilyn Reynaud, (225) 925-7200

Houma/Thibodaux area:
Dr. Jerrell Mathison, (985) 447-0916 ext. 324

Lafayette area:
Dr. Tina Stefanski, (337) 262-5311

Lake Charles area:
Dr. B.J. Foch, (337) 491-2040

Alexandria area:
Dr. John Naponick, (318) 487-5262

Shreveport area:
Dr. Martha Whyte, (318) 676-7489

Monroe area:
Dr. Shelley Jones, (318) 361-7201

Florida Parishes:
Dr. Erin Brewer, (985) 871-1300