By Mr. Kirk Frady (Army Medicine)August 4, 2016
August has been designated as National Immunization & Influenza Awareness Month. As such, it is critically important that every Soldier, Family member, DA Civilian and beneficiary receive all of their immunizations, including yearly influenza immunizations, to ensure the Army is a healthy and mission-ready force.
The CDC annually ranks influenza as one of the top ten leading causes of age adjusted death in the United States.
When asked why vaccinations and immunizations are so important, Lt. Col. Keith Palm, Public Health Nurse Staff Officer for the Office of the Army Surgeon General replied, "There are thousands of cases of influenza reported every year throughout the Army. Being immunized for influenza not only protects you, but also your friends, family, and co-workers where you live and work. Even a healthy adult can become seriously ill if infected with the influenza virus."
Palm added, "Keeping our fighting force mission ready is one of our top priorities. Ensuring that our Soldiers receive their flu shots helps us maintain that level of readiness."
The Army immunization program is a positive, direct, and specific approach to disease prevention and control. Before and during a time of war, this program represents a very considerable expansion of the application of immunization procedures in the Army.
Currently, the Immunization Healthcare Branch of the Defense Health Agency synchronizes, integrates, and coordinates immunization policies and other immunization-related activities for all DoD components.
Immunizations are the best protection against vaccine preventable diseases, and have saved more lives than any other medical measure in history. In their "Ten Great Public Health Achievements," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the routine childhood immunization schedule can prevent up to 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease for every 4 million children who are born. Morbidity from vaccine-preventable diseases has fallen 90 percent or more since the mid-20th century.
For the upcoming influenza season, the Army, along with other services, made a unanimous decision not to use Flu Mist. This was based on guidance received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When asked about the decision not to use Flu Mist this year, Palm responded, "The Army has routinely used Flu Mist to immunize our population for over ten years. This year, however, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended not using Flu Mist due to its low effectiveness. The Army and our sister services follow federal health recommendations and, as a result, have replaced Flu Mist with injectable influenza vaccine for this year."
Flu season can be dangerous, unpredictable and degrade force readiness and the Army's mission. Army Medicine is committed to ensuring that every Soldier, Family member, DA Civilian, Army Retiree and healthcare provider receives the vaccines they need to stay healthy.
The Army will continue to aggressively educate all Soldiers, Family members and other beneficiaries on the importance of keeping their immunizations up to date. For the 2016-2017 influenza season, the Army has contracted for almost 1.7 million doses of influenza vaccine. This helps to ensure that Soldiers and beneficiaries are protected against influenza. In late August, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will begin delivering this year's unique influenza vaccine to Military Treatment Facilities.
The Army has a long and proud history of protecting our Soldiers and the civilian population from disease and infection. According to Palm, The Army has a long tradition of immunization. In 1777, General Washington ordered the Continental Army to be inoculated for smallpox, the first Army ever to do so. Ever since then, Army Medicine has been instrumental in the development of vaccines for diseases like yellow fever and adenovirus. Today, Army Medicine continues to be a leader in vaccine development and is currently researching vaccines for malaria, HIV, and the Zika virus.