A change in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means a whole new group of Americans will become eligible for flu vaccinations Jan. 3.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has expanded the guidelines for priority vaccination groups, now saying people ages 50 to 64 should be allowed to receive the vaccinations. Previously, only people ages 65 and up, infants or the chronically ill could get the shots.
However, the change may not come in time to help local people who fall into the new acceptable age group.
What could be the season's last shots available for Cape Girardeau County, 400 in all, will be distributed by the Visiting Nurse Association on Wednesday. The clinic will last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until the shots run out at the VNA's facility at 145 Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau.
Both the VNA and the county health department have elected not to order more vaccine for now, so it is unlikely local residents age 50 to 64 will be able to get flu shots.
However, that group could have a chance to be vaccinated if the VNA's supply of 400 doesn't run out Wednesday. If some doses are left, the agency will have another clinic later, but that doesn't seem likely, said Helen Sander with the VNA.
And currently no more shots have been ordered because officials at those agencies are confident the at-risk population has been sufficiently vaccinated.
"We feel, and the CDC agrees, that the people who really need it most have had the chance to get it," Sander said.
County health department director Charlotte Craig agreed, saying people in high-risk groups who want the shot have had plenty of chances to get one.
The two health agencies vaccinated 1,200 people in two clinics on Friday.
Those who meet the new guidelines to receive the vaccination are being encouraged to get one however they can because the flu season is far from over. That will be difficult for area residents unless the county health department decides to order some of the vaccines being released in January.
"I've always said it's a good idea to take them through January, as the season lasts through March," Craig said. "If you're fortunate enough not to have gotten sick by now, you should take the opportunity."
So far the flu season in Cape Girardeau County and in Missouri has been relatively mild. As of Friday, only four cases of influenza in the county had been confirmed, according to the county health department.
Clinics are also being held in Dexter, Kennett and Poplar Bluff on Wednesday.
335-6611, extension 182