By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (AFNS) – All military personnel will be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, and the vaccine will be available to all military family members who want it, a Defense Department health affairs official said Sept. 2 here.
The H1N1 vaccination program will begin in early October, said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Wayne Hachey, the director of preventive medicine for Defense Department health affairs.
The vaccine, which has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, will be mandatory for uniformed personnel, the colonel said.
“What we want to do is target those people who are at highest risk for transmission,” he said.
Health-care workers, deploying troops, those serving on ships and submarines, and new accessions are at the top of the list.
“Any place where we take a lot of people, squash them all together and get them nice and close and put them under stressful conditions will get the vaccine first,” he said.
DoD officials will use the usual seasonal flu vaccine distribution chain for the H1N1 vaccine, Doctor Hachey said, noting that while the mass H1N1 vaccinations are new to the general population, the process for vaccinating against seasonal flu is old hat for DoD.
“We’ve been doing this for decades,” the colonel said. “The system is tried and true.”
DoD initially will receive 1 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, and another 1.7 million doses later in October.
Officials don’t know yet whether people will need one dose or two, Doctor Hachey said.
“The assumption right now is that people will need two doses, 21 days apart,” he said. “That may change.”
FDA officials are still studying H1N1 and the vaccine, and the results should be known by the end of the month.
Seasonal flu vaccine already is available, and DoD officials will begin giving those shots shortly, Doctor Hachey said.
“That has been our message to immunizers: to try and get as many people as they can immunized against the seasonal flu early,” he said.
Guidelines for giving priority to family members will follow those for the general population, Doctor Hachey said. The Department of Health and Human Services is buying millions of doses of the vaccine.
“Installations are going to register with each state as an immunizer,” Doctor Hachey said. “They will tell how many people they care for. This includes dependents, retirees and so on.”