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Vaccine Lottery Sign-Up Extended to Thursday

Matthew Hersh

A flu vaccine lottery has been extended through tomorrow, in response to a high volume of eligible residents seeking shots, according to officials at the Princeton Regional Health Department (PRHD).

The health department has received a limited quantity of vaccine, about 42 percent fewer than the approximate 1,400 the department is normally allocated.

Those Borough and Township residents eligible for lottery registration must be 65 years of age or older, or suffer from a chronic medical condition, such as heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, diabetes, blood disorders, cancer, or a weakened immune system.

All adult residents must also provide proof of residence (a tax bill), Medicare card, and a doctor's note confirming a chronic illness.

David Henry, Health Officer at PRHD, was not able to estimate how many of those registered for the lottery would actually receive a vaccination, but as of now, he said, there are enough shots for the several hundred residents who have registered thus far.

He did indicate, however, that by the end of the week, there would be more residents registered than available vaccine.

"It's unfortunate that we have to go to a lottery-type of system, but it seemed to be the only way we would be able to distribute the limited amount of vaccine that we have.

"With our current allocation, we should be able to cover those registered so far, but we'll just have to see by the time the registration closes out," he added.

To register, residents can call the Princeton Senior Resource Center at (609) 924-7108 between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Registration will close tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Lottery winners will receive written confirmation in the mail.

"We hope to be sending letters out starting Friday, so depending on the mail service, people should know by early next week if they've won a slot," Mr. Henry said.

Details about the clinic will be in the letter. The flu vaccines will be administered Friday, November 19.

Additionally, a limited number of pneumonia shots will be available. Call the Senior Resource Center to sign up for that shot, also scheduled to be administered on November 19.

The Princeton vaccine lottery resembles tactics taken by other communities throughout the state. The vaccine shortage was caused by a contamination problem in vaccines manufactured by the U.K.-based Chiron Corporation, responsible for an estimated half of the American supply of flu vaccinations. Its license was suspended because of sterility concerns in its product Fluvirin.

Mr. Henry remains "guardedly optimistic" that more vaccines will be made available sometime between now and mid-December, indicating there is a "chance" that those who will not receive a shot this time around will be able to get one in upcoming weeks: "It's a wait-and-see right now. We're waiting to hear back from the state health department to find out if more vaccine is coming and when that's going to be."

For general flu information, visit http://nj.gov/health/flu.

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