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Special Event

Surgeon General Holds News Briefing on New Flu Shot Guidelines

Aired October 25, 2000 - 10:02 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: As promised, David Satcher now talking in Washington about the current concern of about flu vaccinations.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DR. DAVID SATCHER, SURGEON GENERAL: ... pneumococcal season. I look forward to this opportunity to try to remind the American people how far we have come in our ability to ward off these potentially deadly microorganisms. And I think the reason I look forward to it is because I realize that despite our tremendous scientific advances, we are not at the place where we can prevent the spread of every infectious disease. But we can do something about flu and pneumonia.

Fortunately, effective vaccines, exist -- excuse me -- fortunately, effective vaccines exist that allow us to protect ourselves against influenza and pneumococcal disease. These vaccines are the best tools to prevent unnecessary severe illness and death among the elderly and among people who are chronically ill.

Unfortunately, too many adults are missing valuable opportunities to prevent the spread of flu and pneumonia by not getting immunized. As a result, 20,000 Americans die unnecessarily from influenza each year. And 12,500 die needlessly from pneumococcal disease.

So, as you can see, combined these two diseases are responsible for 32,000 deaths. Joining me today to stress the importance of getting influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, along with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, we have the National Coalition for Adult Immunizations, we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Care Financing Administration, the American College of Physicians, and the American Society of Internal Medicine, and the National Medical Association.

We have gathered to ask the nation's physicians, nurses, and other health care provider to make sure that those who are most at risk for influenza disease are immunized first this year. Because of delays in production of the influenza vaccine, this time we have to be more strategic in our distribution. So we're urging that, through the month of November, health care providers focus first on immunizing the elderly and the chronically ill, and women who will be in their second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season. Those groups who are most at risk. And certainly, those health care workers who work in institutions where they take care of those most at risk should also be immunized in order to protect themselves, but also to protect those who are at highest risk.

We expect to administer flu vaccines to high-risk populations and the health care workers who care for them by the end of November. After that, we encourage other persons, we refer to them as healthy persons, but certainly low-risk persons, to get their flu shots. And I think, if we can get people immunized by the end of December, we will be in great shape for everybody.

We do not -- we do not anticipate a shortage of vaccines. This year's supply should be approximately equal to what was distributed last year. But it is true that a substantial amount of vaccines will merely reach providers later than usual.

Based on information provided by manufacturers, we anticipate about 75 million doses of vaccines -- of flu vaccine. And last year, we netted about 74 million doses. So we don't anticipate a shortage, compared to last year.

Whereas in the past, most vaccine doses usually became available to providers by October, with 99 percent of distributed doses available before December, this year, we expect to distribute some 18 million doses to healthy individuals awaiting vaccines by December.

The degree of the delay will vary for individual providers. We urge high-risk persons to remain patient, but persistent, with their health care providers to obtain their annual flu vaccines when it becomes available. And I think persistence is important here. We want people to be patient, on the one hand, but we also want them to be persistent. It's important to get the immunization.

The degree of delay will certainly vary for individual providers, and, therefore, it is important to keep that in mind.

CDC is working with individual states and the vaccine manufacturers and the health care system to help providers obtain vaccines for high-risk person. You will hear more about that.

Some are worried about the pneumococcal vaccine, because we are very concerned that so many people in this country are over 65 are still not receiving the pneumococcal vaccine. And most of them only receive it once. And yet, the data that we have, as you will hear later, suggests that we can do much better.

We do not foresee any delays in pneumococcal vaccine this year. And we recommend that everyone, especially these same high-risk individuals, also get the one-time vaccination against pneumococcal disease early in the season, if they have not already done so.

Even in cases where the influenza vaccine is not yet available, we recommend getting the pneumococcal vaccination. But let me stress that it's not a substitute for the influenza vaccination. And patients need to return for the influenza vaccine, when it is available, if it's not available when they first seek it.

HEMMER: Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher there in Washington, talking about supply concerns with this year's flu vaccinations. Two critical points there: Dr. Satcher indicating that more strategic planning is needed in distribution this year. He also advises, in the coming month of November, the health care workers in America should give preference to the following people: the elderly, the chronically ill, and women who are either pregnant in their second or third trimester. They should indeed get the priority.

That is the latest from Washington. Flu season right around the corner. Dr. David Satcher there, the surgeon general.

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