Colorado isn’t adding to its flu vaccine stockpile
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado” Colorado health authorities are defending their decision not to add doses of flu vaccine to the state’s share of a federal stockpile created in case of pandemic.
State health authorities are standing by their decision not to buy doses of flu vaccine to cover 25 percent of Colorado’s population, as suggested by federal health authorities.
Instead, Colorado has fewer than 700,000 doses allotted in a federal stockpile of antiflu vaccines, enough for about 15 percent of the state’s residents. State vaccine stockpiles are being examined as swine flu has killed scores in Mexico and sickened dozens in this country.
Colorado health officials say pandemics are better addressed by preventing large crowds and encouraging basic hygiene such as handwashing.
Chris Lindley, division director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Colorado is one of two states that have declined to buy additional vaccine doses in case of pandemic. The other is Maine.
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Health authorities say Colorado’s allotment of federal vaccine doses would be sufficient to vaccinate the most vulnerable people ” including people in the hospital, health care workers and first responders such as fire fighters.
Further, health officials in Colorado argue that basic public hygiene education such as encouraging people to stay home if they’re sick and wash their hands has proven more effective than antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu in preventing disease spread.
“Prevention is still the best thing we have,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado health department.
It would cost at least $7 million for Colorado to acquire enough doses to vaccinate a quarter of the state population, state health officials said.
In a statement prepared during the avian flu pandemic scare, a statement issued by Colorado health authorities last year concluded that “antiviral stockpiling does not equal preparedness.”
So far, Colorado has no confirmed cases of swine flu. Nationally, the number of confirmed cases in the United States was raised to at least 64 on Tuesday.
The Colorado Medical Society has signed off on the state’s decision not to buy additional doses of flu vaccine. Lindley said that in case of pandemic, modeling shows the most effective tools to slow the spread of disease are still hygiene education and canceling large gatherings, not vaccinating large numbers of people.
“Since this is the biggest gain for the dollar, this is where we have put our efforts,” Lindley said.