(MILITARY TIMES) Active-duty and reserve Marines should receive H1N1 influenza vaccinations no later than March 1, Marine officials say.
Until recently, supply shortages allowed only enough vaccinations for those Marines slated to deploy and a select few in the war zone, but manufacturers are rebounding and, if current shipment sizes are a sign of things to come, the March deadline outlined in Marine Administrative Message 0669/09 should be within reach.
To date, more than 74,000 doses have been shipped to Naval Military Treatment Facilities for “high priority” sailors, Marines and civilians, those scheduled to deploy or those working in a medical field, said Cmdr. Cappy Surette, a spokesman for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
Limited deliveries already have arrived at some major installations, including Camp Lejeune, N.C., and California’s Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
More challenging will be delivering the vaccine to already-deployed troops in the hot climates of Iraq and Afghanistan. To remain effective, the vaccine must be stored at 32 to 43 degrees.
Marine family members and beneficiaries may also elect to receive the vaccine, but availability is on a state-by-state basis. While vaccines for troops are supplied by Defense Department sources, those for military families will be supplied to military medical facilities by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Surette said. Because each state is responsible for working with the health department, supplies may vary.
H1N1 remains widespread within the fleet, but not severe, according to the Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center’s EpiData Center. The rate of infection among Marines and sailors has held steady since mid-September, with approximately eight in every 100,000 testing positive for H1N1.
“While immunization is the primary method of reducing flu illness, personal preventive measures can limit the effects of the seasonal and H1N1 flu,” Surette said. “We can’t overemphasize the basic steps we should all take to help mitigate the spread of the virus, including covering your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough, washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and staying home when you are sick.”
Since H1N1 was first detected, infections have occurred in 206 countries and killed more than 6,770 people worldwide, according to a Nov. 20 release from the World Health Organization. No deaths and few cases of hospitalization resulting from the infection have been reported among Marines.