|By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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.
The H1N1 vaccination program will begin in early October, said Army Lt.
Col. (Dr.) Wayne Hachey, 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.
The department will use the usual seasonal flu vaccine distribution
chain for the H1N1, 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 the Defense Department.
“We’ve been doing this for decades,” the colonel said. “The system is
tried and true.”
The department 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,
Hachey said. “The assumption right now is that people will need two
doses, 21 days apart,” he said. “That may change.”
FDA officials still are studying H1N1 and the vaccine, and the results
should be known shortly.
Seasonal flu vaccine already is available, and the Defense Department
will begin giving those shots shortly, 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, 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,”
Hachey said. “They will tell how many people they care for. This
includes dependents, retirees and so on.”
The Centers for Disease Control will place the order and will ship the
vaccine where needed. Family members will have multiple opportunities to
get the vaccine, whether at Defense Department medical facilities or off
post, Hachey said.
The CDC has established target groups for those at greatest risk for
transmitting or being affected by the H1N1. They include pregnant women,
health-care workers, those younger than 25 or older than 65, and those
with pre-existing health conditions.
Hachey said previous plans are serving the Defense Department well. “We
have been preparing for pandemic flu because of its potential impact on
the mission,” he said.
The symptoms of the H1N1 flu are almost the same as the seasonal flu:
fever, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, muscle aches and feeling
rundown. The 2009 H1N1 virus — formerly known as swine flu — is a
pandemic virus, according to the World Health Organization. U.S.
officials call the virus “troubling” and urge communities across the
United States to take actions to mitigate the effects of it. The federal
government is urging states and municipalities to begin preparing now
for the fall flu season.
President Barack Obama addressed the H1N1 pandemic following a White
“As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring,
I don’t want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be
prepared,” he said. “We know that we usually get a second, larger wave
of these flu viruses in the fall, and so response plans have been put in
place across all levels of government.”
But government cannot do it all, and the American people have a
responsibility to stop the spread of the disease, Obama said. “We need
families and businesses to ensure that they have plans in place if a
family member, a child or a co-worker contracts the flu and needs to
stay home,” he said.
“And most importantly, we need everyone to get informed about individual
risk factors, and we need everyone to take the common-sense steps that
we know can make a difference,” the president said. “Stay home if you’re
sick. Wash your hands frequently. Cover your sneezes with your sleeve,
not your hands. And take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy.
I know it sounds simple, but it’s important and it works.”
The H1N1 is a never-before-seen combination of human, swine and avian
flu viruses, officials said. First detected in Mexico in February, it
quickly spread around the world. According to July WHO statistics, there
have been 94,512 H1N1 cases worldwide, and 429 people have died from it.
In the United States, 33,902 people have contracted H1N1, and 170 have
For more information about H1N1 flu, visit the Web site
call 877-GET-VACC. Information about the H1N1 flu or the flu season also
is available at http://www.flu.gov
or http://www.health.mil (H1N1
(See related story)