The 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine will be available to anyone in the general public starting Monday, January 4, 2010, State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, M.D., announced today. The department has already alerted H1N1 vaccine providers statewide that they may begin offering H1N1 vaccinations to the general public after the New Year.
The vaccine has been available since October solely to specific target groups at highest risk for complications from the H1N1 flu, in accordance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, more than 272,000 doses of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine have been administered across the state to children ages six months and older, pregnant women, young adults ages 18 to 24, non-elderly adults (under the age of 65) with chronic illnesses and front-line health care workers and others at higher risk of catching and spreading the H1N1 flu virus. Even though the vaccine is now available to everyone, the department strongly encourages anyone in these initial target groups who has not been vaccinated to still do so.
"Vaccination is the best preventive tool we have to fight the flu, and we certainly encourage all residents to call their provider, make an appointment, and get their H1N1 flu vaccination," Dr. Guidry said. "Thousands of Louisianians in high-risk groups have already received the vaccine, and it has proven to be very safe and very effective."
Now, anyone interested in receiving the H1N1 vaccine may contact his or her healthcare provider, or any provider listed on the H1N1 flu shot locator at http://www.fighttheflula.com/, to make an appointment to receive the vaccine. The vaccine is available at no-cost from the Federal government, but a patient may be charged a small administrative fee for the office time used, which is usually around $20. Most insurance companies have agreed to cover this fee, including Medicaid and Medicare.
The department estimates that about 216,000 people statewide have contracted the H1N1 flu since it was first discovered in April. This is an estimate of the number of cases seen by health care providers in physicians' offices, urgent care and hospital outpatient offices and hospital emergency departments.
Flu activity is expected to continue for months, caused by either H1N1 or regular seasonal flu viruses, although levels of activity are expected to vary during the season. The future is uncertain in terms of influenza activity, and federal and state health officials note that it's important not to be complacent about the ongoing risk.
While there has been a decline in the proportion of influenza-like illness over the last several weeks, it is possible that the decline is due in part to people's reluctance to seek medical care for mild illness during the busy holiday season.
"This current downturn in influenza-related illness gives us a window of opportunity to ensure that more Louisianians get their H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations," Dr. Guidry continued. "Flu season normally begins in February here in Louisiana, but as you know from the H1N1 pandemic, we've had an extremely high rate of infection and illness this year outside of flu season. Because we don't yet know what flu season will bring in terms of viral activity and illness, we encourage all of our residents to get protection from the flu by getting their vaccinations now, before flu season starts."
Dr. Guidry also updated the status of the state's Fight the Flu campaign.
This Week's H1N1 Vaccination Campaign Highlights
- Of the 1,584,200 doses of H1N1 vaccine the state has been allocated, the CDC reports that 927,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine have been shipped to Louisiana as of Monday, December 28.
- 1,267 providers in Louisiana have recorded 272,797 doses of H1N1 vaccine administered in state, as of Monday, December 28.
- The CDC reports that as of Monday, December 28, nearly 112 million doses of H1N1 vaccine have been allocated nationwide.
- LDH announced that the H1N1 vaccination campaign will be opened to the public on January 4, 2010.
H1N1 Vaccination Campaign Summary
- Additional shipments of H1N1 vaccine are expected every 5 to 10 days for the next 2 to 3 months.
- Target groups for the H1N1 vaccine include children aged six months through 24 years, pregnant women, front line health care workers, parents and other caregivers of children less than 6 months of age, parents and caregivers of people with physical and developmental disabilities, and non-elderly (under 65) adults with pre-existing medical conditions.
- People at the highest risk of acquiring the illness and of being hospitalized with the illness continue to be children under four years old and people five to 24 years old. Asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, pregnancy and obesity are leading risk factors for complications from the H1N1 flu.
- As the H1N1 vaccination campaign moves forward, more vaccine is arriving in state every week. Louisiana residents should stay in contact with their primary health care provider, their pharmacist or their local public health unit as to the vaccine's availability, and to make an appointment to receive the vaccine when appropriate.
- A H1N1 flu shot locator is available for public use on www.FightTheFluLA.com.
- LDH has launched a Twitter feed (FightTheFluLA) and a Facebook page to help ensure easy access to up-to-date information regarding the H1N1 virus and vaccine.
- Residents can call 2-1-1 for additional information regarding the H1N1 flu, in addition to visiting www.FightTheFluLA.com.
Overall Influenza Activity
- There are now 1,913 lab-confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu in the state of Louisiana.
- Estimates derived by LDH in conjunction with CDC data indicate approximately 216,000 Louisianians currently have or have had the H1N1 flu.
- Louisiana has seen a noticeable decrease in influenza transmission over the past several weeks. However, residents should still take precautions and stay aware of the situation surrounding H1N1 influenza, as transmission could increase again without warning as we move into winter and regular flu season.
- LDH confirmed zero new H1N1-related death in the past week. Louisiana's total of H1N1-related deaths remains at 40.
- DHH's Fight the Flu campaign aims to keep Louisianians healthy by promoting immunizations and good hygiene to prevent the spread of the seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 virus. For more information on flu activity in Louisiana, including guidance for families and medical professionals, visit www.FightTheFluLA.com or follow the campaign at www.twitter.com/FightTheFluLA.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/.