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Vol. LXI, No. 24
November 27, 2009

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Seasonal Flu Vaccine Campaign Canceled

An email note to all NIH’ers on Oct. 30 abruptly announced the suspension of the annual “Foil the Flu” campaign at NIH, only 2 weeks into the 3-week schedule. The ORS Occupational Medical Service and Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology Services, which sponsor the annual inoculations, explain why:

Q: Why do you think demand for the seasonal vaccine was so high this year?

A: Widespread public awareness about H1N1 and the serious nature of influenza infections has had the collateral benefit of improving seasonal influenza vaccine acceptance this year. There may also have been some confusion about the protection offered by the respective vaccines.

Q: What has employee reaction been to the suspension?

A: Employees have generally been understanding and there have been few complaints. Most phone calls after the announcement of the suspension were from employees in high-risk clinical areas inquiring whether they would still be able to receive the vaccine in order to protect their patients.

Q: Has the program ever been suspended in the past?

A: Yes. The program was suspended Dec. 10, 2003 (2 days before the Foil the Flu campaign had ended that year), due to a national shortage of vaccine.

Q: By how much did demand exceed supply of the seasonal vaccine?

A: Based upon the pace at which people were presenting for vaccination when the program was suspended, we likely would have vaccinated another 1,000 employees in addition to the patient-care staff.

Q: When in this Foil the Flu season did you realize that you were going to fall short of seasonal vaccine?

A: This year the volume of flu vaccine administration was markedly ahead of last year’s record-breaking NIH flu vaccination campaign. In the days before the suspension, we realized our volume was getting low and that because of a severe national shortage of seasonal flu vaccine we would soon not be able to replenish our supply. Occupational Medical Service fulfilled its vaccination commitments for that week and the campaign was suspended with just enough doses to vaccinate the health care workers and influenza virus researchers who are required to comply with the influenza vaccine program. We are hopeful that seasonal influenza vaccine will be available again in the coming weeks.

Q: Will this year’s cancellation prompt a larger order for seasonal flu vaccine in 2010?

A: We will most likely order a larger number of doses; fulfillment of our order, however, depends on the national supply

Q: What plans does NIH have to offer 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine to any portion of its workforce?

A: It totally depends on availability. First priorities are to vaccinate staff with patient contact and Clinical Center patients. We are receiving very small shipments of H1N1 vaccine each week and have not finished vaccinating the health care staff.

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