NYC health department asks providers to prioritize patients

NEW YORK — With H1N1 influenza dominating the headlines, New Yorkers have turned out in record numbers for seasonal flu shots this fall – depleting vaccine supplies and prompting the Health Department to issue new recommendations for vaccination.

The agency continues to recommend seasonal vaccine for all children between 6 months and 18 years of age, for all adults 65 and older, and for people with underlying health conditions that increase the risk of complications from influenza. But until vaccine supplies increase, health officials are suspending the recommendation to vaccinate healthy, non-elderly adults.

Data are not available on adult vaccination rates for this season, but new Health Department figures show that children are being vaccinated in record numbers against seasonal influenza. More than 110,000 doses have already been administered to children under 5 years old, and approximately 148,000 doses have gone to children between 5 and 18 years old. These totals represent more than twice the number of immunizations given to New York City children during the same period last year.

Similarly, public clinics in New York City have already vaccinated 20 percent more persons with seasonal influenza vaccine than they did during the entire previous year.

“Some additional supplies of vaccine are expected during November,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “But the demand may continue to exceed the supply. The Health Department is taking steps to ensure that the available vaccine is administered to people at high risk for developing severe illness or complications from influenza. These people are either vulnerable to complications from influenza, or likely to infect vulnerable people if they contract influenza themselves.

“We ask healthy, non-elderly adults who are not health care workers to allow others who are at higher risk to receive vaccine until the vaccine supply increases.”