Oct. 21, 2004 This year's flu season has begun, and, as they are on the U.S. mainland, flu vaccines are in short supply in the territory.
Rodney Miller, Roy Lester Schneider Hospital chief executive officer, said Wednesday although not everyone who wanted a flu shot will be able to get one, all high-priority individuals, as designated by the Centers for Disease Control, will receive the vaccine.
Miller said, thanks to the generosity of Hovensa, high-priority individuals the elderly, children ages 6 to 23 months, the chronically ill, pregnant women and certain health care workers will be able to receive the vaccine. Seniors on Medicare may receive the vaccine free of charge at any institution offering it. Both hospitals are providing the flu vaccines free of charge to high-priority individuals.
"We're focusing on following the CDC guidelines of administering the flu shots to those who are most needy," Miller said.
On Monday, Hovensa officials donated 350 vaccines each to the Roy Lester Schneider and Juan F. Luis hospitals during a ceremony on St. Croix. The Health Department also received 100 doses.
Earlier this month, a national shortage of flu vaccine occurred when all the vaccine manufactured by one of two vaccine suppliers was found to be unsuitable for use due to contamination.
Several weeks before the national shortage occurred, Hovensa purchased a large supply of vaccine for its employees. It also donated approximately 2,000 doses to the Health Department for an event known as V.I. Care Force 2004 for distribution to seniors during health fairs held on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John in late September, a Hovensa release said.
"In light of the current shortage of flu vaccine, the V.I. Care Force and Hovensa decided to donate all the vaccine that had not been used during the Care Force activity to the hospitals and the Department of Health," the release said.
The Health Department, the V.I. Medical Institute, the American Association of Retired People, Hovensa and the V.I. National Guard sponsor the Care Force event. VIMI facilitated the event, which provided free clinics to the elderly.
Dr. Cora Christian, member of VIMI, said, "We understand that the flu vaccine is important because it can save lives. Getting the flu shot is like closing your hurricane shutters during a storm."
Several doctors in private practice are also providing the flu shots to high-priority patients at a cost. The Red Hook Family Practice charges $35 for the vaccine. Calls to other areas were not returned.
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