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Kim Johnson ReportingThe shortage of flu vaccine has created both a rush to get it, and confusion over who should get it. There isn't enough vaccine this year for all who want it, so we're going to try to clear up the confusion over who fits into the priority categories, and why.
Linda Abel is on the phone almost constantly these days with callers wondering if they qualify to get the vaccine. She says many are upset when they find they don't.
Linda Abel, State Health Dept.: “We have a shortage. We need to cover people in the priority categories, especially people in nursing homes. If you don’t need the flu vaccine, this is the year to give it up so someone who does fit the categories can have it.”
Elderly people over age 65 and nfants between six to twenty-three months qualify. Both groups tend to have more complications from the flu and end up in the hospital more often than other age groups.
Pregnant women qualify because complications from the flu, could compromise their unborn child. Babies under six months of age do Not qualify, but their families do.
Linda Abel, State Health dept.: “You need to, if the vaccine is available, to vaccinate their parents, or their siblings who are in close contact with that baby because they have no protection, and again, they are at higher risk for hospitalization."
Children six months to 18-years old, who are on long-term aspirin therapy qualify because aspirin and the flu can combine to cause Reyes Syndrome, which can be deadly. People suffering from chronic conditions, like diabetes, asthma or heart disease qualify. So do residents of long-term care facilities and their caregivers.
Abel says many health departments are screening nursing home staff and medical care givers to see if they're candidates for flu mist, which is a nasal spray.
Linda Abel, State Health Dept.: “It can be used for healthy people from age five to 49, so it has a limited use, but in a time of shortage, it has a selective use especially in the healthcare worker population."
If you're not a candidate for getting the vaccine, the best way you can protect yourself is through frequent hand washing. You might want to keep some hand sanitizer around too. And if you happen to get sick, don't go to work, church, or school.