November 30, 2004

Qualified VA Patients Can Receive Flu Vaccine

Eligibility is limited to those age 75 and older, or who suffer from certain diseases.

* * *

The VA Medical Center in Providence will hold a flu-shot clinic on Dec. 4, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., for people who are already patients of the hospital's health-care services and who meet stringent new criteria.

Two weeks ago, the hospital received the 11,000 doses of vaccine that it ordered, and its doctors have begun vaccinating eligible patients who are in the hospital or who have come in for outpatient visits.

In past years, the hospital held several flu clinics and vaccinated about 1,000 people at each, said spokesman James W. Burrows. Although the Providence VA has the same amount of vaccine this year as in past years, concern about the nationwide flu vaccine shortage may draw a bigger response.

"I'm afraid there may be additional demand because of the frenzy out in the community," Burrows said. As a result, eligibility for the vaccine this year is limited to those who are 75 or older or who suffer from certain diseases or conditions.

If all the doses aren't used on Dec. 4, the hospital will consider holding another clinic in January, Burrows said.

Burrows said that the vaccine is only for veterans who were previously enrolled as patients with the Providence VA. Spouses are not eligible.

The Providence VA has developed criteria that are narrower than those set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends the shots for anyone age 65 or older or with a chronic illness. Burrows said that the Providence VA has 16,000 patients who are 65 or older.

The vaccine will be administered only to veterans enrolled at the hospital who are age 75 or older, or who have one of these conditions: receiving chemotherapy, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, kidney failure requiring dialysis, transplanted organ, spinal-cord injury, diabetes treated with medication, or pregnancy.

People may not receive the flu vaccine if they are allergic to eggs or egg products, if they are suffering from an acute respiratory infection or other illness causing fever, of if they have ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

For more information, call the VA's flu hotline at 273-7100, ext. 1420.