Flu Vaccine Now Available To All New Yorkers

Albany, NY, January 21, 2005 - The New York State Department of Health, in coordination with local health departments, today announced that the State has expanded eligibility for the influenza vaccine to all New Yorkers and is urging health care professionals to make remaining flu shots available to any person seeking vaccination to protect themselves from contracting the flu.

The latest statewide evaluation of the demand for flu vaccine among individuals in the high priority groups shows that the overwhelming majority of those needs have been met. These broadened guidelines, effective immediately, replace restrictions announced earlier this flu season. There is currently a supply of unused flu vaccine in many areas of the state and in the interest of protecting those remaining individuals who wish to be vaccinated and to avoid having unused vaccine at the end of flu season, the vaccine will be provided to persons on request.

Since the influenza vaccine shortage became apparent in October 2004, the Department has worked closely with local health departments, hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, and agencies that serve high-risk New Yorkers to ensure that vaccine reached those individuals who were at highest-risk for complications due to influenza. The Department conducted multiple surveys to assess vaccine supplies and needs, and to distribute vaccine accordingly. The Department distributed over 500,000 doses of influenza vaccine to counties, providers, hospitals and nursing homes outside New York City.

Influenza activity in New York is being reported as widespread and is expected to continue into February. Flu season usually begins in November and can last until late March. Individuals who have not been immunized against flu this season and who wish to receive the vaccine should contact their primary health care provider or county health department.

The Department's monitoring for influenza activity and vaccine supplies in New York is ongoing. As the cold and flu season progresses, the state's Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) has been activated to track hospital admissions statewide for influenza-like illness and to assess bed capacity.

The State Health Department's comprehensive education and awareness campaign to fight the flu is ongoing and provides the public with important information on ways to avoid getting the flu and prevent the spread of germs that cause the illness.

The following messages are part of the Department's statewide Influenza education and awareness campaign:

  • For most people the flu is an annoyance, not a severe health threat;
  • Individuals seeking a flu shot should contact their primary care physician or county health department. In addition to seeking a flu shot, there are ways to reduce your risk — frequent hand washing cannot be overstressed as a simple means to avoid contracting or transmitting the flu.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze will help reduce the spread of germs that can cause the flu.

Additional information on fighting the flu is available on the State Health Department's website at www.health.ny.gov.