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More Missourians eligible for flu vaccinations


January 12, 2005 - More Missourians are eligible for flu shots because the state Department of Health and Senior Services last week ex-panded its recommendations for high-risk vaccinations.

Adults ages 50 and up can now get the vaccination as can those who have frequent contact with people considered to be at "high risk," according to a news release from the state health department.

The new guidelines from the federal Cen-ters for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, allow more people to be eligible for flu shots this year, the news release stated.

The priority groups for influenza vaccine now will include adults ages 50 to 64 as well as out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of people in high-risk groups.

People in the high-risk groups for serious complications from influenza include those 65 years old or older, children less than 2 years old, pregnant women and people of any age who have such underlying health conditions as heart or lung disease, transplant recipients or those with weakened immune systems.

In response to this season's vaccine shortage, the department previously recommended influenza vaccine for all children ages 6 months to 23 months, adults 65 years old and older, those 2 to 64 years old with underlying chronic medical conditions, all women who will be pregnant during the influenza season, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children 6 months old to 18 years old on chronic aspirin therapy, health-care workers involved in direct patient care and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old.

The revised recommendations also in-clude the Vaccines for Children program, or VFC, and expand the groups of eligible children to receive VFC influenza vaccine to include VFC-eligible children who are household contacts of people in high-risk groups.

Since the flu vaccine shortage was an-nounced early this fall, the Department of Health and Senior Services has worked closely with Missouri's local public health agencies, the news release stated, to determine the actual need for vaccine under the guidelines as well as with the CDC to obtain as much vaccine as has been available.

The department continues to place vaccine orders.

It now appears there will be enough vaccine doses available in Missouri to accommodate high-risk people under the expanded guidelines, according to the news re-lease.

Everyone can take practical steps to help prevent the spread of influenza:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Keep your distance from others if you're sick.

When possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick and don't send your children to day care or school if they are sick.

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Wash your hands often.

People, especially those in high-risk categories, should consult with their doctors about getting a pneumococcal vaccine especially if unable to get a flu shot.

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