Army flu vaccination program protects military families

Only 10 active-duty Soldiers were diagnosed with influenza in U.S. Army Europe so far during this flu season. Senior leaders credit the low number of cases to a comprehensive vaccination campaign plan and commanders’ emphasis on the importance of medical readiness and a protected community.
“Protecting our expeditionary Soldiers, their families and all of our other beneficiaries is my top priority,” said Brig. Gen. Elder Granger, commander, Europe Regional Medical Command and USAREUR command surgeon.
“This is the first time we have truly documented, through electronic systems, the medical readiness of our forces. The USAREUR community can be proud of its military leadership and their dedication to deploying a healthy force and keeping them healthy.”
For the second year in a row, USAREUR leads the Army in ensuring Soldiers and their families are protected against influenza.
With a 93 percent immunization rate so far, USAREUR has exceeded the Army Surgeon General’s goal of vaccinating 90 percent of active-duty Soldiers and is again demonstrating the highest percentage rate of immunized Soldiers of all major commands in the Army.
“Without this senior leader command emphasis on influenza vaccinations for all our troops, we never would be as well-protected as we are today,” said Col. Loren Erickson, commander, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe.
“Given the expected severity of flu this year, this emphasis was extended to include military family members and all civilians working for USAREUR. At this point we’ve immunized more than 70,000 people in our communities – more than 50,000 Army personnel and approximately 20,000 civilians.”
According to Colonel Erickson, a total of 44 cases of influenza have been confirmed by the Landstuhl medical laboratory for the 2003-2004 flu season to date.
“Ten of these were active duty soldiers,” said Colonel Erickson, “while 34 were dependent children. Four of the children required a brief hospital stay, but recovered. Looking at the immunization records for these 34 children, none of the 34 had been fully immunized prior to becoming sick. The youngest children require a two dose schedule for proper immunity. Unlike a number of communities in the United States and elsewhere in Europe, we’ve had no influenza-related deaths among our beneficiaries this flu season.
“We can be justifiably proud of our successful efforts to stop this disease,” he said. “Instead of being in bed sick, our people were able to enjoy their families through the holiday season. Ten cases among all of our soldiers in Europe are very few when compared with the outbreak experiences of some of our (stateside) bases.”
Erickson points out that the flu season in Europe routinely runs from December through April, peaking in January, and that individuals not yet immunized would still benefit greatly from visiting their local medical treatment facility for the shot.
“The influenza vaccine is still available in Europe free of charge for all military health care beneficiaries including active duty servicemembers and their family members, retirees and their family members, and (Department of Defense) personnel and their families. This year we are also making the vaccine available to host nation employees who work for the U.S. military,” he said.
(Courtesy of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center)