US military donates flu vaccine to NMI, others

Posted on Mar 26 2008
[B]HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP)[/B]—The U.S. military said Tuesday it has delivered 30,000 doses of surplus flu vaccine from Honolulu to the CNMI and Guam and small island nations in the Pacific, including American Samoa and Palau.

The doses were gathered from across the military and stored at Tripler Army Medical Center.

The military discovered the need while discussing how the U.S. could help Pacific nations and territories respond to an influenza pandemic and natural disasters, said Col. Mike Brumage, Tripler’s chief of preventive medicine.

Flu shots protect those receiving the vaccine as well as those who live and work with them, he said.

Influenza is a year-round disease in the tropics, so the doses will be useful even though flu season is ending in the 50 states, Tripler said.

The Defense Department requires active-duty personnel to get vaccinated against the flu every year. It also provides vaccines to military dependents, but often ends the flu season with an excess supply.

The doses are worth $260,000. They are being given to the island nations and territories at no cost.

Because of increased tourism in the Pacific Islands, the flu vaccine is vital to the population there. Tourists arrive from east and west.

“And then they can infect everybody else on the islands so giving them the influenza vaccine is very important and even at this time of year, because it’s a year round threat in the Pacific Islands, unlike in the temperate climates where it tends to be more seasonal,” said Col. Michael Brumage, from Tripler Hospital.

Hawaiian Airlines is delivering American Samoa’s supply. Continental Airlines is carrying the remainder to the Northern Mariana Islands, Micronesia, Guam and the Marshall Islands.

“Often times, these islands only have a small amount of doses to give out to the local population each year,” said Ron Ballajadia, of the non-governmental organization Pacific Islands Health Officers Association.

About 2,500 doses were delivered to Palau earlier this month. The remainder went out yesterday.

The military last year sent 7,800 doses to the Northern Mariana Islands. It expanded the program this year based on the success of that operation.

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