Missourians previously ineligible for this year’s flu vaccine may get another chance for immunization against the virus.
Gov. Bob Holden repealed an executive order that limited health-care providers to administering flu vaccines to high-risk people only. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services advised Holden to withdraw the order as a result of expanded guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Locally, though, the executive order could have little impact. The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has been out of flu vaccine since the end of last week. Spokeswoman Heather Baer said the agency does not expect to receive more doses for this season.
Baer said Boone County residents who still hope to get the vaccine should contact their physicians. Although most Boone County physicians are out of the vaccine, a few doses are available, she said.
In addition to those in high-risk groups, these people now are being given priority to receive the vaccine:
n Adults from age 50 to 64.
n Out-of-home caregivers and people who have household contact with people in high-risk groups.
n Children who have household contact with high-risk people.
Sue Denny, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health, said public health providers stopped buying the vaccine after demand slowed considerably in early December.
“Providers would buy the vaccine, and then they were stuck with it,” Denny said.
FluMist, a live, weakened version of the virus, is a needle-free alternative. It is administered through a one-time nasal spray.
“It’s proven to be just as effective and safe as the shot,” Baer said.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department is offering free FluMist to Boone County residents 5 to 49 who are in good health.
Missouri’s flu activity for this season has remained relatively low. As of last week, 165 cases had been reported in the state. Fifteen of these cases were in Boone County, Baer said.
The height of the flu season generally does not hit Missouri until late January or early February, she said.
“We are not at all out of the woods yet,” Baer said.
Officials do not expect a repeat of last year’s widespread outbreak. More than 14,000 cases of the flu were reported in Missouri at this time last year. In 2002, 365 cases were reported in Missouri during the first two weeks of the year.