Health officials assess flu season after vaccine concerns

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(Host) A serious shortage of vaccine at the beginning of the flu season raised many health concerns among Vermonters. But in the end, it appears that clinics received about the same amount of the vaccine as usual.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) At the start of the flu season, the state expected to receive only 36,000 doses of the flu vaccine. In the end, more than 100,000 doses came in. The Health Department says that’s because the vaccine was redistributed by the federal government and other agencies in an attempt to deal with the national shortage and Vermont received much more than originally anticipated.

Dr. Cort Lohff is state epidemiologist. He says it’s unlikely that there will be another shortage next year.

(Lohff) “I don’t think we can live through another year like we did this past year. So I’m pretty confident that there’s everything being done at the federal level.”

(Zind) Lohff says the state is fortunate that this year’s flu season has been mild, unlike a serious outbreak last year that led to some school closings.

At the start of the flu season Vermont health officials mandated that only high-risk people receive flu shots. As more vaccine became available that restriction was relaxed. Health officials say the percentage of high risk Vermonters who received the flu vaccine is much higher than the national average. They say the system of mandating who gets the shots has worked well but unless there’s a shortage next season, they’ll go back to the voluntary system of past years.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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