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Deployed members first in line for flu shots

Story by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor

Airman 1st Class Joseph Smotherman gives Airman 1st Class Brandon Adamson a shot Tuesday at the 6th Medical Operations Squadron Immunization clinic. Both Airmen are training as medical technicians here.

Photo by Airman 1st Class Carlye D. LaPointe

Due to the international shortage of the Influenza vaccine, MacDill has no supply on hand. When the vaccine does arrive, deployed active duty are first in line for the shots.

Lt. Col. Marc Goldhagen, 6th Aero Medical Squadron commander said, "Right now there is no vaccine here at MacDill, and when we do receive our supply, it will be rationed out according to strict guidelines… Our first priority is making sure our deployed troops get vaccinated."

He said next in line would be the front line medical people who would be coming into contact with sick people on a daily basis. Then front line warfighters like flight crews and security forces troops, followed by high risk beneficiaries such as children ages 6 to 23 months, adults older than 65, all pregnant women, women caring for children younger than 6 months old and anyone with health conditions which would warrant the shot.

Staff Sgt. Dulche Stewart, 6th Medical Operations Squadron immunization technician, said there are rumors flying that the immunization clinic has the vaccine and is holding it, but that is not the case.

Chiron, the main supplier of flu vaccine, was forced to shut down production when the British government abruptly and unexpectedly pulled the license of the Liverpool factory responsible for making half the U.S. flu vaccine supply. Federal and state officials called on health organizations to start limiting the vaccine to people who need it most, such as the elderly, the chronically ill and children.

While the entire Department of Defense is affected by the British rejection of the imported flu vaccine, all operationally deployed servicemembers and all high-risk beneficiaries will be vaccinated for this flu season, said DOD officials. Roughly 2.2 million servicemembers and high-risk beneficiaries need to be immunized.

Using another source for the vaccine, the DOD has 1.3 million doses coming from a company unaffected by the British action. The DOD has already shipped vaccine to troops deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations and to South Korea, which are the highest priority, officials said.

Flu vaccinations are normally mandatory for all servicemembers. The flu is contagious, and depending on the strain, can cause illness or even death. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year.

Colonel Goldhagen said the first symptoms include an abrupt fever between 102 and 104 degrees fahrenheit, headaches, muscle aches and a dry cough. He recommends four to five days of bed rest with plenty of fluids and pain relief medication.




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