State eases flu vaccine restrictions

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:55

    Restrictions on flu vaccines in New Jersey were eased Tuesday by state health officials, who said less than half of high-risk patients even got shots in a season that started in a near panic because of a supply shortage. Not much flu vaccine is left in the state, but the lifting of restrictions means health care providers with remaining doses can administer them to any patient. Previously, only those in high-risk health categories such as the very young and those over 65 years old were allowed to get the vaccine. Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, senior assistant state health commissioner, said the flu has not hit New Jersey hard in a season that originally saw worried seniors and others lined up for hours after the nationwide vaccination shortage was announced. "A stroke of good fortune is the best way I can describe it,'' Bresnitz said. ``It's especially good in light of the vaccine shortage.'' A survey taken by the state last month determined that some doctors, hospitals and health care facilities needed a total of 9,200 doses. Bresnitz said those doses were ordered and would be shipped soon by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others who responded to the survey reported they still had vaccine on hand. "Once New Jersey's vulnerable citizens have had the opportunity to get vaccinated, it makes sense to allow physicians and other providers to offer flu shots to the low-risk population,'' said acting Gov. Richard J. Codey. The flu season lasts from October until April. Bresnitz said the state does not count flu cases, but that indications are that current levels are below the number in New Jersey this time last year. The state recently raised its level of flu activity to just above ``sporadic.'' Bresnitz said those interested in getting flu vaccinations should contact their doctors or other health officials to ask about availability, but that the emphasis should still be on those in high-risk groups.