Legislation would Encourage Pharmacies to Enroll in The New York State Vaccines for Children Program, Which Provides Vaccines Regardless of the Ability to Pay; Governor Calls on Health Care Providers to Enroll
Legislation Codifies Executive Order Which has Allowed More Than 6,300 New Yorkers Ages 2-18 to be Vaccinated at Pharmacies
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Four Confirmed Pediatric Flu Deaths in New York this Flu Season, 8,317 Children Under Five Diagnosed with Lab Confirmed Flu
Record Number of Lab Confirmed Flu Cases and Hospitalizations in Each of Last Three Weeks
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is advancing a 30-day budget amendment to encourage pharmacies to enroll in the New York State Vaccines for Children Program, which provides vaccines to children and individuals regardless of their ability to pay. The legislation would codify the executive order temporarily allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18. The legislation, which increases convenience and vaccine accessibility for New Yorkers, would permanently suspend the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18.
"As flu diagnoses continue to grow, we must do everything we can to ensure all New Yorkers have access to the flu vaccine to protect them now and in the future," Governor Cuomo said. "I urge all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their families, get a flu shot and join us in stamping out the spread of this dangerous virus."
Since the Governor signed the executive order on January 25, 2018, more than 6,300 New Yorkers ages 2 to 18 have been vaccinated at pharmacies. The legislation encourages vaccination and helps protect children who are traditionally among the populations most vulnerable to influenza. There have been four pediatric influenza deaths this flu season, with a fifth pediatric death currently under investigation, and 8,317 children under the age of five have been diagnosed with lab confirmed influenza and 731 have been hospitalized. Parents and guardians with children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are still encouraged to see their primary care provider for the vaccination.
Additionally, to support the increasing demand for pediatric vaccinations as a result of the executive order and to ensure cost of the shot is not a barrier to getting vaccinated, the Governor called on individual physicians to enroll in The New York State Vaccines for Children Program. This is a federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children that are eligible
A child is eligible for a Vaccines for Children Program vaccine if he or she is younger than 19 years of age and meets any of the following criteria:
- Uninsured (do not have health insurance),
- Underinsured (have commercial health insurance but the insurance does not cover the flu vaccine, or the insurance caps coverage at a certain amount or number of visits),
- Native American or Alaska Native,
- Medicaid-enrolled or Medicaid-eligible, or
- Enrolled in Child Health Plus.
Vaccines for Children providers must screen each child for eligibility to receive VFC vaccine and document the results at each immunization visit. VFC vaccine may not be administered to children who are not VFC-eligible.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "After the Governor signed the executive order allowing pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine to children, we've seen an increase in the number of families taking advantage of this initiative and it makes perfect sense make this permanent. The flu continues to be widespread in our state and if you haven't yet been vaccinated, get vaccinated soon as possible."
For the last nine weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across New York. As of February 3rd, 52,567 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported, 11,802 people have been hospitalized with influenza in New York State this season. During last year's flu season, there were 12,912 flu-related hospitalizations and eight pediatric deaths in New York. Over the last four years, there have been a total of 25 pediatric flu deaths in New York State and an average of 10,571 flu-related hospitalizations a year.
Last week Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Health to authorize emergency assistance funding for counties statewide to help fund expanded efforts to promote and increase access to flu vaccines statewide. This builds on New York State's previously announced actions to combat the flu epidemic. In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, it's essential to practice good hand-hygiene:
- Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.
- Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and avoid spreading them to others.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. People with the flu are infectious for up to 7 days after symptoms begin.
For more information about the flu, visit: www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal.