New York pharmacists authorized to administer influenza vaccine to patients 6 months or older

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As Governor Cuomo declares disaster emergency, New York pharmacies struggle to meet increased demand for flu vaccine.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a public health emergency and given pharmacists temporary authorization to provide the influenza vaccine to patients 6 months or older.

The governor's executive order states that more than 19,000 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the state, which is an increase of about 400% compared with the number seen during the entire 2011–12 season. According to the order, pharmacists who already have authority to provide the influenza vaccine to individuals 18 years or older also are granted temporary authorization to vaccinate patients aged 6 months to 18 years.

The order further states that "seasonal influenza is a threat to public health and safety and, if left unchecked, will cause personal hardship among the general public throughout the State, including death, hospital overcrowding, shortages of health care workers, and disruptions to businesses and critical infrastructure because of illness-related absenteeism" and that "to combat the further spread of seasonal influenza, it is necessary to facilitate the voluntary vaccination of as many individuals as possible as quickly as possible."

On January 13, the New York Times reported that pharmacies in the Empire State were scrambling to meet the increased demand resulting from Cuomo's declaration.

The Times report stated that pharmacies in several areas of New York City had to turn away patients on Sunday after exhausting their flu vaccine supply; however, the pharmacies expected to receive new vaccine shipments on Monday.

CDC has reported about 29,000 confirmed cases of influenza thus far but noted that the actual total is likely far greater, as many people who fall ill from the virus do not get tested. The agency also has reported that 20 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have occurred so far in the 2012–13 flu season.

CNN reported late last week that despite growing fears of an influenza vaccine shortage, manufacturers have provided reassurance that supplies are plentiful.

For example, GlaxoSmithKline reported to CNN that it has produced approximately 25 million doses of the vaccine, many of which have not been shipped.

"There may be spot shortages out there, and people wanting to be vaccinated should call ahead to the provider to see if they have vaccine," CDC press officer Tom Skinner recommended in the CNN report.

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