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Alaska's supply of flu shots safe in shutdown

Posted: October 17, 2013 - 11:04pm

ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s supply of flu vaccinations was not affected during the federal government’s partial shutdown, but efforts to monitor influenza were crippled before furloughed federal workers were able to return to work.

The 16-day shutdown came to a close after the House and Senate voted late Wednesday to end it.

During the shutdown, no one at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced the agency’s weekly surveillance report. The CDC typically analyzes data and tracks flu cases in all 50 states.

During the shutdown, thousands of CDC workers were on furlough.

In Alaska, there should be an adequate supply of flu shots for all providers, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://is.gd/4hwjue).

Gerri Yett, the immunization program manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, said the state has ordered 80,500 doses of this season’s vaccine. Last year, 81,950 doses for Alaska were purchased with both federal and state funds.

Many people worry about immunization costs and availability, or they think the flu shot will actually give them the illness they are trying to avoid, according to Yett.

“There’s a lot of myths out there,” Yett said.

The federal funds come from the Vaccines for Children program, Yett said. State funds go toward adult doses of the immunizations.

The vaccines are dispersed between public health centers, private providers and tribal health organizations. Places like commercial pharmacies and hospitals also can choose to buy vaccines from the manufacturer and bypass the state.

In Alaska, only 39.7 percent of the population older than six months was vaccinated last year, according to a survey conducted by the CDC.

One case of the flu has been reported in Anchorage this month, said Bonnie Bond, state virology lab manager in Fairbanks. That doesn’t mean that’s the correct count because doctors are not required to report their flu findings to the state, she said.

Bond’s lab conducts at a local level some of the work that was halted by the shutdown on a national level. Both release weekly reports of where and what types of flu are going around.

Bond’s lab has continued sending its testing results to the CDC.

“Right now I suspect they’re all just piling up down there,” Bond said about the reports.

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