Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Defense Department to start H1N1 flu vaccinations

All military personnel will be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, and the vaccine will be available to all military family members who want it, a Defense Department health affairs official said today.

The H1N1 vaccination program will begin in early October, said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Wayne Hachey, director of preventive medicine for Defense Department health affairs.

The vaccine, which has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, will be mandatory for uniformed personnel, the colonel said. "What we want to do is target those people who are at highest risk for transmission," he said.

Health-care workers, deploying troops, those serving on ships and submarines, and new accessions are at the top of the list. "Any place where we take a lot of people, squash them all together and get them nice and close and put them under stressful conditions will get the vaccine first," he said.

The department will use the usual seasonal flu vaccine distribution chain for the H1N1, Hachey said, noting that while the mass H1N1 vaccinations are new to the general population, the process for vaccinating against seasonal flu is old hat for the Defense Department.

"We've been doing this for decades," the colonel said. "The system is tried and true."

The department initially will receive 1 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, and another 1.7 million doses later in October.

Officials don't know yet whether people will need one dose or two, Hachey said. "The assumption right now is that people will need two doses, 21 days apart," he said. "That may change."

FDA officials still are studying H1N1 and the vaccine, and the results should be known by the end of the month. Seasonal flu vaccine already is available, and the Defense Department will begin giving those shots shortly, Hachey said.

"That has been our message to immunizers: to try and get as many people as they can immunized against the seasonal flu early," he said.


Story by Jim Garamone,
American News Service

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