Freeing up more flu vaccine for Oklahomans

Wednesday, December 8th 2004, 10:11 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa hospital has detected what may be the state's first two cases of influenza. St. Francis Hospital reports over two days, two people treated as outpatients tested "positive" for the A-strain of the virus.

News on Six anchor Tami Marler has new developments on the plan to fight the flu.

"I just got a fax from St. Francis yesterday, saying they just had their first confirmed case." Dr. Patrick Daley says this year is nothing compared to last, when the first cases of the flu hit in mid-October. "It’s weird because last year, we were already doing this. I mean November, we had kids in the hospital, and not only just with the flu, but upper respiratory, asthma, pneumonia, and when they got the flu, they were sick."

Dr. Daley doesn't credit any one thing with stalling the flu, but he says frequent hand washing helps, so does hand-sanitizer. But the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.

Oklahoma is among a handful of states to relax CDC-recommended guidelines for giving flu shots only to high-risk individuals. Starting Thursday, healthcare providers will be allowed to vaccinate adults age 50 and over, plus people who live with those in high-risk groups. Critical service providers, like police, firefighters, teachers and healthcare workers, can also get flu shots.

The new guidelines will free-up thousands of vaccines now sitting in storage, for Oklahomans who may still need them. Dr Daley: "And even February is a peak month for the flu here, so it still is going to be advantageous for those people to get it, so if they've not gotten it, I would go get it for sure."

State officials don't know if vaccines will be available to the general public at all this year. It looks like they made the change just in time.