CDC loosens restrictions on flu vaccine

Dec 17, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – To keep influenza vaccine from going to waste, the government announced today that more people will be eligible to receive flu shots starting Jan 3 where supplies are adequate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people aged 50 to 64 and those who care for or share a household with people in high-risk groups will be included in vaccination priority groups as of Jan 3, provided local health authorities determine that the vaccine supply is sufficient.

The change was recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

"In most communities we're still targeting vaccine to the people in the highest priority groups," said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD. "The challenge is that in some places, health departments and private providers currently do not have enough demand from people in those priority groups. We don't want those doses to go to waste, so some states are expanding to make good use of those doses. The ACIP's recommendation is consistent with this approach."

Because of the flu vaccine shortage, the CDC previously had recommended that doses be reserved for children aged 6 to 23 months, people 65 and older, the chronically ill, pregnant women, nursing-home and long-term care residents, children on chronic aspirin therapy, healthcare workers involved in direct patient care, and caregivers and household contacts of babies under 6 months old.

The ACIP suggested implementing the change Jan 3 to allow time for unvaccinated people in current priority groups to seek shots.

The ACIP also passed a resolution expanding the groups eligible to receive flu shots under the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, the CDC said. Effective immediately, VFC-eligible children who are household contacts of people in high-risk groups are eligible for vaccination, the committee said.

Today's announcement was foreshadowed last week, when the CDC suggested that the vaccination guidelines could be broadened in states that still had vaccine doses left in the private sector after meeting the demand from priority groups.

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