Flu vaccine available for wider distribution

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(Host) This fall, a nationwide shortage of vaccine prompted the Vermont Health Department to strictly regulate who could receive flu shots. Now the department says it’s relaxing those restrictions and making the shots available to more people.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The Health Department says most of the highest risk people have been vaccinated. Now some healthy Vermonters who were earlier told they wouldn’t get flu shots will be able to receive them. They include anyone over 65, parents, siblings or caregivers for infants under six months, people who live in a household with someone who has a compromised immune system, health care workers who provide direct patient care and healthy babies under 23 months. Flu clinics are being held around the state over the next two weeks.

The flu season officially began in Vermont last week when the department confirmed the first two cases of the illness. The department says the vaccine is being made available to more people because the state has received additional doses. State officials also say health care providers have worked together effectively to manage the limited supply.

Health Commissioner Doctor Paul Jarris says this year’s shortage has been a wake up call for health officials.

(Jarris) “We need to have a much more secure vaccine supply, not only for influenza but for all our vaccines. I’m hoping that we will realize we have to put as high a priority on childhood and adult immunization as we do on some of the lifestyle drugs or Botox for wrinkles.”

(Zind) Jarris says the nation’s vaccine supply needs to be more diversified. He says economics of the business make it more attractive for companies to make designer drugs than to produce vaccines. Jarris says that’s an issue the government will have to address to increase the number of vaccine makers.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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