New York State will provide emergency funding assistance to counties across the state to help them combat this year's flu epidemic.
On Thursday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to authorize that emergency assistance funding. This action provides enhanced reimbursement to counties and will help fund expanded efforts to promote and increase access to flu vaccines statewide. Governor Cuomo is also calling on all 58 local health departments to expand efforts to more readily accommodate New Yorkers still needing a flu shot.
"As flu diagnoses and hospitalizations continue to increase to epidemic proportions, this administration is doing everything in its power to protect New Yorkers from this especially durable strain of influenza," Governor Cuomo said. "I ask all New Yorkers to take advantage of this expanded access to flu vaccines and join us in slowing down and stopping the spread of this virus in the Empire State."
With 15,753 laboratory confirmed influenza cases reported to the New York State Department of Health, and 2,349 New Yorkers hospitalized with confirmed influenza, these numbers are again the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and exceed last week's record high 11,683 confirmed cases and 2,221 hospitalizations.
Governor Cuomo has also directed local health departments to re-focus enhanced outreach to vulnerable populations, including daycares, nursing homes, senior centers, and homeless shelters, to reemphasize the need for flu vaccinations, provide targeted education regarding the signs and symptoms of flu, and to identify and assist those populations with low vaccine rates.
Local health departments are also instructed to coordinate with local school superintendents to identify schools experiencing an increase in absenteeism rates due to illness among students and staff and link them to ongoing education and vaccination efforts.
Last month, the Governor signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18. The executive order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18 to allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and up. 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.
As a result of the executive order, the governor's office says more than 5,400 children have been reported as being vaccinated in pharmacies.