BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, M.D., announced today that the 2009 H1N1 vaccine is now available by appointment in Louisiana for all groups recommended to receive the vaccine (target groups) through more than 350 health care providers statewide, including parish health units. For the first time, people aged 25 through 64 years who have chronic health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza can now get the H1N1 vaccine. DHH has also launched a revamped www.FightTheFluLA.com Web site and a H1N1 flu shot locator that allows target group residents across the state to find locations offering the H1N1 vaccine.
"With enough vaccine now available to vaccinate members of all our target populations, we are offering protection from the virus to those who need it most," Secretary Levine said. "The updated www.FightTheFluLA.com web site will serve as a valuable tool for residents looking not only for information about the H1N1 virus, but public locations where they can receive their vaccination as well. We encourage all those in our target groups to call first and see if the correct formulation of the vaccine for their target group is available, and then to make an appointment to receive it."
Parish health units statewide have received initial doses of the H1N1 vaccine, in addition to all federally-qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and many private providers who have agreed to vaccinate the target groups in the state. All target populations can now receive the vaccine. Target groups include:
o Pregnant women
o Health care and emergency medical services personnel
o People from the ages of 6 months to 24 years
o People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
o People from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for flu complications because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems
"By getting these initial doses out to the parish health units, we are providing another avenue for vaccination for residents whose providers did not register to administer the vaccine," said Dr. Guidry. "Vaccination is the best preventive tool we have to fight the spread of the flu. As we move forward, more and more providers and public locations such as clinics and pharmacies will receive the vaccine."
While non-elderly adults with chronic medical conditions are included in the target groups for H1N1, adults over the age of 65 are not included in the initial target groups. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 65 and older are the group that is least likely to get infected with H1N1. Adults over age 65, however, will be offered the vaccine at no cost at parish health units when the campaign opens up to the general population in four to six weeks.
DHH has also launched a new version of its Fight the Flu website that includes an H1N1 flu shot locator, in addition to the most up-to-date guidance and information regarding the H1N1 virus and vaccine. The locator provides a list and map of vaccination providers by ZIP or parish. The website will continue to be updated with additional features, including podcasts, a public question and answer feature, and updated public H1N1 flu shot locations. The new website also includes public service announcements regarding the importance of H1N1 vaccination.
Fight the Flu public service announcements are now running on television and radio stations in every TV viewing area and radio market of the state, as well as on regional cable TV networks and statewide radio networks. Print public service messages are also running in more than 70 newspapers and health care magazines throughout Louisiana. The Department is also working with faith-based and community-based organizations to educate more residents on prevention and the importance of vaccination.
The vaccine shipments to parish health units are made up of the multi-dose vial and single-dose adult formulations, which are appropriate for pregnant women and non-elderly adults with chronic medical conditions. Residents in these target groups are encouraged to contact their private provider first to make an appointment to receive vaccine, or a local parish health unit to make an appointment to receive the vaccine. Residents can find their parish health unit at the new www.FightTheFluLA.com's flu shot locator.
The H1N1 vaccinations at PHUs will come at no cost to patients. Insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare may be charged a minimal administration fee. PHUs have initially received, at minimum, the following numbers of vaccine.
• 100 doses of H1N1 vaccine appropriate for children six months to 35 months of age.
• Between 100 to 200 single-dose syringes of H1N1 vaccine, appropriate for those two years and older.
• Between 100 to 200 multi-dose vials of H1N1 vaccine, appropriate for those two years and older.
DHH, through the Department of Education, is also working with school districts across the state to finalize plans for school-based H1N1 flu clinics to vaccinate children against H1N1 flu. These will be one-day events in schools or school districts so that children, with parental consent, can get the vaccine. The first clinics should start in one to two weeks, and more details about the clinics will follow.
With the number of doses available nationally doubling in the past two weeks, Louisiana has seen a similar rise in doses allocated, allowing for the state's vaccination campaign to begin allocating doses to parish health units. The state has now ordered 578,000 doses of the vaccine, the entire amount allotted to the state by the CDC. The CDC reports that as of Wednesday, November 4, 390,000 doses have been shipped to the state, compared to 258,000 one week earlier.
DHH's Fight the Flu campaign aims to keep Louisianians healthy by promoting immunizations and good hygiene to prevent the spread of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. For more information on flu activity in Louisiana, including guidance for families and medical professionals, visit www.FightTheFluLA.com or follow the campaign at www.twitter.com/FightTheFluLA.