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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Stay Calm On Flu Shot Shortage

Stay Calm On Flu Shot Shortage

Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Sun, Oct. 17, 2004
By Francie Wise, PHN, MPH

WITH ONLY HALF of the expected supply of adult flu vaccine available to Americans this year, many of us face the prospect of being without flu shot protection for the coming flu season. What can we do?

First, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines restricting flu shots to groups who need the vaccine the most. These people are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the flu, or they may be in close contact with these vulnerable individuals. The following groups should get a flu shot this year:

  • Adults over 65 years old (even if you're in great health)
  • Children aged 6-23 months (young children can become very ill from the flu)
  • Persons aged 2-64 years with chronic medical conditions (for example, heart or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer or HIV/AIDS)
  • Women who will be pregnant during the flu season (typically November through March)
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Children 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy
  • Health-care workers involved in direct patient care
  • Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old.
  • If you aren't sure, contact your doctor.
  • If you don't belong to one of the groups above, don't despair. You are a healthy person aged 2-64 years, so even if you get the flu you probably won't become seriously ill. Also, there are things you can do to avoid getting the flu, to avoid becoming seriously ill if you do get it and to treat the flu if you become infected.

First, be sure your hands are clean when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. An infected person may pass the flu virus to another by coughing or sneezing on or touching an object such as a door knob, telephone receiver or even a dollar bill. Then, if a second person touches the object and later touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth with those virus-tainted fingers, the second person may become infected with the flu.

It's difficult for many of us to avoid touching our faces - we do it subconsciously - so try to keep your hands clean by frequent washing with soap or by using a waterless hand sanitizer.

Avoid contact with crowds during the flu season. Even people who don't appear sick can have and transmit the flu virus.

Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and enough sleep, and don't smoke. Following these rules will keep you generally more healthy, which helps your body fight infections, including the flu.

Finally, there are medicines your doctor can prescribe to prevent and treat some kinds of flu viruses.

These medicines can be especially useful when a number of people in close contact get the flu, such as in a nursing home or day care facility. In these situations, health care providers can determine the type of flu virus causing the outbreak and prescribe the appropriate medication.

Don't panic about the flu shot shortage. If you are in a high-risk group, get a flu shot. If not, there are plenty of preventative measures and effective treatments available. For more information about the flu and the flu vaccine shortage, call 888-959-9911 or go online to

Francie Wise is a public health nurse and Chief of the Communicable Disease Programs of Contra Costa Health Services.

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