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Updated 9:30 AM September 8, 2009
 

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U-M officials: Vaccinations protect from flu, minimize spread

Each fall, university health officials encourage students, faculty and staff to get a seasonal flu vaccine. Not only can it protect the vaccinated person from getting influenza, but it also minimizes the risk of spreading flu to family members, coworkers, roommates and friends — and the patients of health care workers.

This year it's even more important to get vaccinated, with multiple strains of flu making the rounds — including the resurgence of the pandemic H1N1 virus that rose to prominence in the spring.

Vaccination against the "regular" seasonal flu already is being offered to the U-M community and at various locations in many communities. The earlier-than-usual start is being encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There are substantial supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine this year," says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer and director of University Health Service. He says he encourages everyone to consider getting vaccinated.

The U-M Health System (UMHS) has started inoculating employees at work. The effort has a double goal: To protect the health of employees who are critical to UMHS's mission of caring for patients, and to minimize the risk that employees will transmit flu to vulnerable patients.

UMHS also has started vaccinating inpatients and outpatients against the seasonal flu. More information about all UMHS-related flu vaccination efforts is at www.med.umich.edu/flu/shots.

Other campus employees and students can get the seasonal flu vaccine at locations ranging from the University Health Service and their personal health care providers to local drug stores and vaccination clinics offered by nurses from Michigan Visiting Care. Some campus units will be bringing the vaccinations to the work place, such as Facilities and Operations.

University Health Service will launch seasonal flu vaccine efforts in mid-September for high risk individuals, and will be offering general flu shot clinics starting with a dean of students sponsored half-day mass vaccination Sept. 30. UHS will launch its regular flu clinics Oct. 7. Check the UHS Web site for details on both clinics: www.uhs.umich.edu.

When the vaccine against H1N1 influenza becomes available later this fall, it's expected that it will arrive in batches and it will be offered first to individuals in priority groups determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The priority designations reflect which types of individuals have been most vulnerable to the pandemic H1N1 strain since the spring, and include health care and emergency medical services personnel who provide critical resources in an epidemic.

The H1N1 vaccine is being provided by the federal government and will be distributed to health systems, physicians' offices and community vaccination sites through the Washtenaw County Health Department.

The CDC priority groups are:

• Pregnant women.

• People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age.

• Health care and emergency medical services personnel.

• Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age.

• People from ages 25-64 who are at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Studies on H1N1 vaccine safety are currently underway and will be completed before vaccine is distributed to the public.

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