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MIT Medical announces updated flu vaccination policy

UPDATE (Jan. 4, 2005): MIT Medical now has ample supplies of flu vaccine and can administer it to any member of the MIT community age 50 or older, or anyone under 50 with one of the CDC qualifiying chronic medical conditions or exposures.

ORIGINAL (Oct. 15, 2004): The nationwide shortage of flu vaccine will significantly reduce the number of people the MIT medical department will be able to vaccinate this year.

MIT Medical expects to receive about 15 percent of its usual vaccine order. It will make vaccines available as supply permits only to people within the high-risk groups outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who receive their ongoing primary care from MIT Medical.

CDC guidelines prioritize vaccine administration to those individuals most likely to suffer serious medical complications from the flu--the very old, the very young and those with chronic illnesses. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is legally requiring that flu vaccination be strictly limited to those in the CDC-specified high-risk groups.

MIT Medical does not expect to have enough vaccine for all patients that fall within the CDC high risk guidelines, so they will first vaccinate patients at the highest risk for medical complications from the flu. Members of the community who fall within the CDC vaccination guidelines may call the MIT Medical information line at 253-4865 to find out about vaccine availability.

Doctors advise that vaccination is not the only way to help prevent the flu. They recommend frequent and thorough hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes as effective preventative measures.

Check the MIT Medical web site for more detailed prevention tips and for suggestions on what to do if you do get the flu. Several antiviral drugs can reduce flu symptoms and duration if taken within two days of getting sick.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 20, 2004 (download PDF).

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