Flu outbreak leads to executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Cuomo announced yesterday that children ages 2 to 18 can now receive a flu vaccination at pharmacies in the state. He said the order increased access and convenience for people seeking a place to get their kids immunized during the current New York flu outbreak.
Over the past week, he noted, 7,779 lab-confirmed flu cases were reported to the state and 1,759 people have been hospitalized with confirmed influenza. This marks the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and tops last week’s previous high of 1,606 hospitalizations.
“With flu cases reaching epidemic proportions in New York, we must do everything in our power to fight this virus and keep New Yorkers safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Once again, I urge all New Yorkers to help us combat this quick-spreading strain of flu and make sure they and their loved ones are vaccinated.”
Specifically, the executive order suspends the provision in state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone younger than 18 and allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and older. The state recommended that parents and guardians call pharmacies ahead of their visit to make sure they are ready to provide the flu vaccines to patients in this age group. Children between ages 6 months and 24 months are still must visit their primary care provider to receive a flu vaccination.
“The Chain Pharmacy Association of New York fully supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to allow pharmacists to provide flu shots to children 2 years old and above,” stated association president Mike Duteau, who is vice president of business development and strategic relations at Kinney Drugs, which operates more than 90 pharmacies in upstate New York. “With the recent flu outbreak affecting communities across the state, this measure will expand access to specially trained pharmacists who are able to provide flu vaccinations to children and their family members.
“Pharmacists are one of the most accessible community health care providers, often open nights and weekends,” Duteau noted.
Among other steps taken in response to the New York flu outbreak, the state’s Department of Financial Services has issued guidance to health insurers to ensure that prior authorization won’t hinder the prescribing of antiviral medications within the first 48 hours of illness, when these medications have a greater effect on lessening flu symptoms.
“Pharmacists are preparing their operations to support the governor’s executive order. They are pleased to play a critical role in containing the spread of flu in this vulnerable population,” commented Kathy Febraio, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.
For the last seven weeks, flu has been geographically widespread across New York. The state said that, through Jan. 20, more than 25,000 lab-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported, 7,101 people have been hospitalized with flu and one pediatric flu-related death has been reported this season.
Last flu season, New York had 12,912 flu-related hospitalizations and eight pediatric deaths. Over the last four years, the state totaled 25 pediatric flu deaths and had an average of 10,571 flu-related hospitalizations annually.
“As number of flu cases continues to rise throughout the state, it is imperative that we make it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves, their families and their communities this season,” according to Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health. “Building on the actions taken last week, the Department of Health will be launching an aggressive flu prevention and awareness campaign, providing text alerts on where to get the vaccine, monitoring health care facility capacity, and coordinating flu response activities with local health departments, provider associations, pharmacies and health care facilities.”