Governor David A. Paterson today announced that, effective immediately, health care providers may make the H1N1 flu vaccine available to all New Yorkers who want the vaccine, including those who are not in priority groups established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The announcement applies to all providers, including local health departments with vaccine clinics scheduled for this weekend.
To date, the Department of Health (DOH) has allocated more than 3 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine – the maximum made available by the CDC – for the vaccination of priority group individuals in areas of the State outside of New York City. As a result of that effort and increased supplies of vaccine, the State is now making the vaccine available to all New Yorkers.
“Since early October, when the H1N1 flu vaccine first became available, we have focused on providing vaccine to those New Yorkers considered at highest risk of serious illness from the flu,” Governor Paterson said. “Now that increased supplies of vaccine are available, it is appropriate to expand access so that more New Yorkers get protection against the flu.”
“As we enter the holiday travel season, it is important to provide vaccine to as many people as possible. During this busy period, I encourage New Yorkers to take time to get vaccinated against the flu,” the Governor added.
State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said: “Over the last few weeks, the supply of vaccine in New York State has consistently increased to the point that we are now receiving weekly vaccine allocations that are double the amount of earlier allocations. As a result of the increased supply and a strong targeted vaccination campaign to reach priority groups, many recent local vaccination clinics have not reached capacity, indicating reduced demand for the vaccine among priority groups. While we know there are still some individuals in priority groups waiting to receive the vaccine, and we urge providers to continue to administer the vaccine to them, our discussions with local health departments, hospitals and other health care providers indicate a general consensus that it is now time to open access to the vaccine to non-priority group individuals as well.”
Governor Paterson and Commissioner Daines thanked health care providers and county health departments for their strong efforts to vaccinate thousands of New Yorkers in priority groups who are at increased risk of serious illness from the flu, as well as health care workers and others who are at risk of transmitting the H1N1 virus to vulnerable individuals. They also thanked those New Yorkers who are not in priority groups for their patience in waiting for the vaccine.
Among those who have been waiting to receive the vaccine are many seniors 65 years of age and older, who were not in priority groups to receive the initial doses of vaccine based on CDC determinations that the H1N1 flu virus is more likely to target and cause serious illness among younger persons. However, some cases of the virus have been reported in individuals 65 and over, and public health officials agree it is appropriate that the vaccine now be made available to them.
On December 4, the CDC reported that many areas of the country are now making the vaccine available to healthy adults not in priority groups. These decisions are consistent with the recommendations of the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that the vaccine be made available to other individuals once individuals in priority groups have had access.
To date, New York State has received more than 5 million vaccine doses, including more than 3 million doses for areas outside of New York City, and more than 2 million doses for New York City. This week New York received its largest single-week allocation of vaccine to date for areas outside of New York City – more than 500,000 doses. CDC projects another allocation of approximately 500,000 doses for the same region next week, with increasing amounts of vaccine to be available in subsequent weeks. H1N1 flu activity continues to be widespread in New York State, though the level of activity has decreased compared to the previous week.
“With the supply of vaccine increasing, I urge New Yorkers to take advantage of the opportunity to protect themselves and their families against the flu,” Commissioner Daines said. “While the flu is very unpredictable, typically we see the most flu activity during the next three months. Getting vaccinated in the next month will provide protection against a possible third wave of the H1N1 flu this winter and spring.”
The H1N1 vaccine is as safe and effective as the ordinary seasonal flu vaccine and is developed using the same process as seasonal vaccine. Flu vaccines have consistently had excellent safety records over the last several years, as documented in multi-year studies. The CDC, which conducts surveillance for vaccine-related adverse events, issued a report December 4 on the safety of the H1N1 vaccines that found no substantial differences between the safety of the H1N1 vaccines and that of seasonal flu vaccines.
Public health officials emphasize that getting a vaccine is much safer than getting the flu. From September 1 through the week ending December 4, there were 43 confirmed H1N1 related deaths in the counties outside of New York City, including 11 children under 18 years of age. More than 3,000 people were hospitalized with the flu in New York State during the same period.
An individual’s regular health care provider may be the best option for getting vaccinated. Many county health departments are also conducting public vaccination clinics. More information about H1N1 flu, including where to locate flu vaccine, is available at www.nyhealth.gov.