Flu shot shortage affects the KMC

Maj. James Stigers
435th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

Influenza and viral respiratory illness prevention will remain a high priority for Ramstein Air Base, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the KMC even though flu vaccines are in short supply this winter.

Military officials say deployed troops, certain mission critical service members and family members who are most at risk of severe illness outcomes if infected with the flu, will be first to get the shots this year.

Healthcare teams are currently in the process of identifying high risk patients and will contact each of them to inform them when the vaccine is available, following Air Force Medical Operations Agency directions.

After the vaccine arrives, high-risk beneficiaries may call an Influenza Hotline at 479-2533 or 06371-46-2533 for current availability and location of vaccine. There will be further information distributed through the media when the vaccine arrives. Visit http://vaccines.army.mil/ for more information on current policy.

The Department of Defense has not released the official policy for administering the vaccine this year, said Phillip Tegtmeier, Europe Regional Medical Command spokesman. But it is likely that the DOD will follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

The CDC recommends that healthy people between the ages of 2 and 64 forego the shots this year, allowing enough vaccine for deployed troops, the very young, very old and family members with chronic medical conditions.

It is unlikely that most active duty members, civil servants, contractors, teachers and family members will be vaccinated this season according to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Health Office.

The CDC has established the following civilian priority groups for the flu vaccination this season:

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

The shortage is due to the Oct. 5 shutdown of Chiron Corporation’s vaccine shipments. The shutdown halted the delivery of 46 million doses, approximately one-half of the needed supply of inactivated flu vaccine for the United States, according to the official vaccine website.

It is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of flu, said Lt. Col. Leonardo Profenna, 435th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, chief of aeromedical services.

“The majority of flu cases can be treated at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications,” said Colonel Profenna. “Use your judgment. If your troops look and feel under the weather – a day of rest at home will help prevent the spread of the virus throughout the workplace.”