Officials Urge Flu Vaccination of Elderly, Ill
At an Oct. 25 press conference, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, along with representatives of five major health organizations, urged doctors not to give limited supplies of influenza vaccines to healthy individuals, but to save them for "high-risk patients," including the elderly, pregnant women and the chronically ill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "Vaccinating one million elderly people prevents on average 900 deaths and 1,300 hospitalizations," Keiji Fukuda, influenza epidemiology chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said. Fukuda added that since vaccination is a "private enterprise," distribution of the shots to high-risk individuals is "strictly voluntary." Some doctors have found that they are unable to procure vaccines for their at-risk patients because companies that inoculate their employees and supermarkets offering shots to shoppers have gotten to the distributors first. Satcher and others supporting the "priority vaccination" schedule said that healthy individuals should wait until December, since it is a "good gamble" that the flu season will not begin before then. In addition to flu shots, health officials are urging high-risk patients to receive pneumococcal vaccination, which prevents a bacteria-based disease that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, bacteremia, middle-ear infections and sinusitis. This disease causes about 12,000 deaths a year (Borenstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.