DoD has released new guidance for the use of flu vaccine so that the Services can begin implementing their immunization programs for the upcoming 2011-2012 influenza season.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson has set a goal to have more than 90 percent of military Service members immunized by this December. DoD’s new seasonal flu vaccine policy, which was released Aug. 2 and can be found here, requires immunization of all Active Duty and Reserve Component personnel against influenza in accordance with Service-specific guidelines.
For the approaching flu season the Services have requested more than four million doses of vaccine, which could start to become available from manufacturers as early as mid-August. Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) should expect multiple deliveries over several months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity usually lasts from October to May in the U.S.
“The ASD/HA guidance for using the 2011-2012 seasonal influenza vaccine is similar to past years,” said officials from the Medical Countermeasures (MCM) Directorate in DoD’s Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness. “However, (unlike last year) most Service members may now be immunized with either the trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) or the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) following caveats in the guidance.”
According to the guidance, TIV and LAIV vaccines have shown to be effective in children and adults, and are now available to DoD this flu season. “LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant,” the guidance states. “LAIV is more effective and highly recommended for healthy beneficiaries below 18 years of age to include eligible children and new accession populations.”
This further marks the second year of expanded recommendations from CDC for annual influenza vaccinations to include all people aged six months and older. “Seasonal vaccine effectiveness estimates continue to show good efficacy in years when there is a good match between circulating influenza viruses and vaccine strains,” DoD’s new guidance states.
DoD and the Services will begin immunization campaigns to attempt to vaccinate all eligible beneficiaries who require or request seasonal influenza immunization, including basic trainees, eligible family members and retirees, and all military and civilian health care personnel who provide direct patient care in MTFs. “Unless significant local shortages exist, eligible beneficiaries will not be denied vaccine upon request,” the guidance states. “Protecting our beneficiaries is a policy of the Military Health System.”
The Military Vaccine (MILVAX) Agency has launched a new Immunization Awareness Month Web site, http://www.vaccines.mil/default.aspx?cnt=IAM/ImmunizationAwarenessMonth, which provides educational resources for the entire DoD family and is designed to assist organizations in coordinating promotional immunization efforts at local MTFs. It further helps educate consumers and health care workers about childhood, adolescent and adult immunizations.
“August 2011 marks the 5th annual DoD participation in CDC’s National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) campaign,” MCM officials stated. “The goal of NIAM is to increase awareness about immunizations that are recommended for the entire lifespan of an individual. DoD’s aim is to provide comprehensive immunization health care in an effort to prevent illness in military beneficiaries, retirees and employees, educating them on all immunizations they may need throughout their life.”
If any unanticipated shortage of influenza vaccine occurs, DoD’s Health Affairs office will provide further direction regarding priority immunization tiers that are consistent with recommendations published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk/wk_cvol.html.
Based on their abilities to vaccinate, military units should use initially available flu vaccine supplies to immunize key groups such as deploying personnel, those that support critical missions or continuity of operations, and high risk beneficiaries to preserve operational effectiveness and protect the most vulnerable populations.
DoD will conduct global health surveillance of influenza-like illness in both Active Duty and civilian populations through its regional medical laboratories and centers located inside and outside the U.S. Each of the military Services will furthermore monitor influenza immunization performance through their Service-specific electronic tracking systems, which must ensure that seasonal influenza immunizations have been reported to the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System.
The Services are also directed in the new DoD guidance to use this season’s influenza immunization program as an opportunity to test their installation-based pandemic influenza immunization plans. “We applaud the many efforts of the Services and the Combatant Commands in pandemic influenza preparedness,” Dr. Woodson noted in the Aug. 2 guidance.
For more information on DoD’s influenza vaccine policies and health surveillance reports, please visit www.vaccines.mil/influenza or www.dod.mil/pandemicflu and http://afhsc.army.mil/fluReports. Additionally, information from CDC on seasonal influenza can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.