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PR- 286-04
October 26, 2004


City also asks Federal Government for 600,000 Additional Doses of Vaccine to Cover High-Risk New Yorkers

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden today asked area employers and health care providers to donate vaccine supplies to those at highest risk this season as part of the City's ongoing effort to respond to the national flu vaccine shortage. DOHMH is urging that only those at high-risk of flu complications be given a flu shot, and have asked healthy New Yorkers ages 2-64 to abstain from being vaccinated this season. The Health Department has requested 600,000 additional doses for New York City medical providers to vaccinate high-risk New Yorkers from the Center for Disease Control.  The Mayor and Health Commissioner were joined by Department for the Aging (DFTA) Commissioner Edwin Méndez-Santiago and Spencer Foreman, MD, President of Montefiore Medical Center whose hospital is donating vaccine to the DOHMH for redistribution to high-risk populations.

"It's still early in the flu season, and our clinics and senior centers are doing an admirable job of getting our most vulnerable citizens vaccinated," said Mayor Bloomberg. "However, 90% of City residents rely on their private doctor to provide their flu shots and we need to get vaccines to them. Since there is not enough vaccine for all who want it, we need to work to together to protect our most vulnerable. We ask those businesses and health care providers who ordered vaccine for their employees who are at risk to donate vaccine to the City so that we can make sure that those at risk get vaccinated."

"In addition to our request to area employers, we have asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional vaccine to protect those at highest risk of complications from the flu this season," said Commissioner Frieden.  "There is a need for about 600,000 additional doses for people at highest risk. We have asked the federal government for this amount; given the remaining stock in the country, we are hopeful that CDC will be able to provide it. Most people will get through the flu season without serious illness, but simple precautions - like staying home if you have fever and cough, and covering your cough and sneeze - will greatly reduce the risk of getting others sick."

The Department of Health has undertaken several initiatives to respond to the shortage
of vaccine:

  • Employers and other vaccine providers who would like to donate supplies of flu vaccine should contact the Health Department by calling 311 or by emailing Several corporations have already received letters from the Health Department urging them to donate vaccines.

  • City health clinics and senior centers continue to offer flu shots to people 65 and older and to those with serious illnesses, many of whom are unable to get the vaccine from their regular doctor. The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the City's Office of Emergency Management have provided significant assistance in helping alleviate the crisis.

  • New Yorkers should stay in touch with their doctor as delivery of vaccine to hospitals and doctors around the country is beginning in the next several weeks. As more vaccine arrives, those at highest risk should continue to be prioritized for vaccination.

  • The Health Department will expand its clinic operations to accommodate the overflow of people who are coming to DOHMH clinics, many of whom normally get vaccinated by their doctor. Additional sites are being established in facilities close to existing health clinic locations. The goal is to administer vaccine more efficiently to reduce the wait time of those who come to the City's clinics.  Information about additional sites will be available at Health Department clinics on the days they are operating, and made available online and through 311.

  • Additional staff and 60 telephone lines have been added to address flu-related calls to 311 and the City's Flu Information Line, which received an unprecedented 7,000 calls in one day at its peak last week - ten times it usual volume this time of year.

  • The Health Department is advocating for long-term changes of federal processes for flu vaccine manufacturing, purchasing and distribution, as well as how to increase funding and coverage for flu shots.

"Older New Yorkers are among the most likely to get sick with the flu, and 90% of deaths from flu complications occur among people over the age of 65," said Commissioner Méndez-Santiago. "Working with the Health Department, we are doing our best to get vaccine to our seniors to protect them from the flu this season. New Yorkers over 65 should also talk to their doctor about getting a pneumonia shot if they haven't had one recently."

"The national influenza immunization crisis requires extraordinary action," said Spencer Foreman, MD, President of Montefiore Medical Center. "In response to an urgent request by the City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Montefiore agreed to provide vaccine from its own reduced allotment to help alleviate the critical situation for those who received little or no supply."


Edward Skyler / Jordan Barowitz   (212) 788-2958

Sandra Mullin   (Health and Mental Hygiene)
(212) 788-5290

Andrea Cimino   (Department for the Aging)
(212) 442-1111

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