Facing a high number of flu cases in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday declared a state public health emergency and issued an order that allows pharmacists to vaccinate patients between the ages of 6 months and 18 years old.
The governor's order suspends for 30 days a section of state law that limits pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to those who are 18 or older. A news release from Cuomo's office noted that 19,128 cases of influenza have been reported in New York this season, well above the 4,404 positive lab tests that were reported for all of the 2011-12 season. Meanwhile, the state's health department received reports of 2,884 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza as of Jan. 5, compared with the 1,169 total hospitalizations for 2011.
“We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York State is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in the release. “Therefore, I have directed my administration, the state health department and others to marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers— children and adults alike— have access to critically needed flu vaccines.”
Cuomo urged all New Yorkers to schedule a flu shot if they have not yet received one as the number of cases continues to rise statewide. The governor's announcement also said the state health department will continue to issue health advisories that urge healthcare providers, hospitals, long-term-care facilities, health departments and pharmacies to advise all residents to receive a flu shot if they have not already. The state health department will work with county, regional and private healthcare partners and public health departments to launch a flu immunization promotional effort that will release information through press advisories, media events and social-networking sites, according to Cuomo's office.
The current flu season has been so severe
that some hospital officials have said patients with flu-like symptoms have filled their emergency departments for weeks and caused some facilities to enact emergency procedures.