Guard prepares for flu season
September 7, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. (Sept. 7, 2010) -- With the flu season approaching quickly, the Army and Air National Guard have released guidance for their 2010-2011 vaccination campaigns and will start shipping vaccinations to the states for immediate distribution, Guard officials said today.
Maj. Gunnar D. Kiersey, a medical readiness officer with the Army Guard chief surgeon's office, said the Military Vaccine Agency is expected to start deliveries to the states by October.
Air National Guard units are scheduled to receive their doses of the flu vaccine within the next month, said Air Force Maj. James Coker, the chief of the Air Surgeon's Public Health and Prevention branch.
"The delivery of vaccine is dependent on the priorities of the manufacturers and availability of approved lots, but several states are currently beginning to receive their ... influenza vaccination," he said.
Each year in the United States, about 36,000 people die from influenza or its complications and for that reason both the Army and Air National Guard strive for 100 percent participation in this program.
"It is highly encouraged for ANG members to receive their vaccination in a timely manner to protect them from influenza during the peak months of influenza activity, which is generally December through March in the U.S.," said Coker. "Personnel who receive the influenza vaccination begin to develop antibodies sufficient to protect them from influenza infection within two weeks of vaccination. This protection will generally last six to nine months and sometimes longer."
Kiersey said Soldiers, who get their shots early, will protect themselves and their families from the influenza virus.
The biggest change to this year's vaccine is that it combines three influenza vaccines into one.
"Every year, scientists select the three influenza virus strains that research feels will pose the most common threat," Coker said.
The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against H1N1, and two other influenza viruses: an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus, Kiersey said adding that the combination of these vaccines will not diminish their effectiveness.
For more information on the listed influenza viruses and the vaccines being used by the Department of Defense, please go to <a href="http://www.flu.gov/"target=_blank>www.flu.gov</a>.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell writes for the National Guard Bureau.)