Saturday, October 17, 2009

The limited vaccine supply

The photo is from the flu vaccine clinics at Community General Hospital.

To date, some 85% of Community’s employees have been vaccinated against seasonal flu. That’s a significant number, but we have not yet reached 100%, as required by the New York State Commissioner of Health.

Yesterday a State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order that bars the State Commissioner from mandating flu shots for hospital personnel. Stay tuned.

Although we received all the seasonal flu vaccine we ordered, our order was placed long before the Commissioner mandated 100% vaccinations. Because of the mandate, the vaccine use rate is greater than expected, and this has reduced the amount of vaccine we have available for the general community.

Each year Community General provides flu vaccinations for workers at dozens of local companies. Because of the higher vaccine rate this season, we will be far short of the supply needed for these companies.

In addition, other hospitals reportedly do not have enough vaccine even for their own staffs to meet the 100% directive.

Because the supplies of seasonal flu vaccine are limited, we notified the Onondaga County Health Commissioner that, after we comply with our flu plan and the state mandate, we will transfer the limited amount remaining to the County for its redistribution based on priority community needs.

We have also informed area companies about the vaccine supply problem. They are not happy, understandably so. The companies have a heightened awareness of influenza risk this year, and their employees have been counting on Community’s annual flu shots. I am sorry we will not have the vaccine for our company flu clinics, as planned.

With respect to H1N1 (“swine flu”), Community received a supply of the vaccine last week, and vaccinations for medical staff, employees, and volunteers begin October 22.

Flu vaccines for health care workers are a patient safety issue. By protecting ourselves, we confer a measure of protection on the vulnerable patients in our care.

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