HHS, DHS Announce Guidance On Pandemic Vaccination Allocation

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The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) released today guidance on allocating and targeting pandemic influenza vaccine. The guidance provides a planning framework to help state, tribal, local and community leaders ensure that vaccine allocation and use will reduce the impact of a pandemic on public health and minimize disruption to society and the economy.

“This guidance is the result of a deliberative democratic process,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “All interested parties took part in the dialogue; we are confident that this document represents the best of shared responsibility and decision-making.”

“A severe pandemic has the potential to disrupt our everyday way of life,” said DHS Assistant for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Runge. “This guidance was developed to ensure that our nation’s critical infrastructure remains up and running and we address the needs of all of our citizens, enabling the country to recover from a pandemic more quickly.”

As part of developing the guidance, HHS held day-long public engagement and stakeholder meetings throughout the country and received more than 200 written public comments on the goals and objectives of pandemic vaccination. In all the meetings, stakeholders and the public identified the same four vaccination program objectives as the most important:

* Protect persons critical to the pandemic response and who provide care for persons with pandemic illness

* Protect persons who provide essential community services

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* Protect persons who are at high risk of infection because of their occupation and

* Protect children

The guidance is also firmly rooted in the most up-to-date scientific information available and directly considers the values of our society and the ethical issues involved in planning a phased approach to pandemic vaccination.

The ultimate goal of the pandemic vaccination program is to vaccinate every person in the United States who wants to be vaccinated. Because pandemic vaccine cannot be made fast enough for everyone to be vaccinated at once, federal, state, local and tribal governments, communities, and the private sector can use the guidance to decide who should be vaccinated during this early stage to best protect people and communities.

The guidance’s vaccination structure defines four broad target groups: people who 1) maintain homeland and national security, 2) provide health care and community support services, 3) maintain critical infrastructure and 4) are in the general population.

Everyone in the United States is included in at least one vaccination target group. People who are not included in any occupational group would be vaccinated as part of the general population based on their age and health status.

While vaccines are an important resource in a pandemic, vaccination will only be one of several tools to fight the spread of influenza if and when a pandemic emerges. Other tools include community public health measures, antiviral medications, facemasks and respirators, washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes.

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