Pacific isles get U.S. flu vaccine surplus
The U.S. military said yesterday it has delivered 30,000 doses of surplus flu vaccine to U.S. territories 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 United States 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.
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.
"Oftentimes these islands only have a small amount of doses to give out to the local population each year," said Ron Ballajadia, of the nongovernmental organization Pacific Islands Health Officers Association.
About 2,500 doses were delivered to Palau earlier this month. The rest went out yesterday.
The military sent 7,800 doses to the Northern Mariana Islands last year. It expanded the program this year based on the success of that operation.