CDC, HHS ramp up comms in response to flu worries

WASHINGTON: Two federal health agencies have turned to communications to allay fears ahead of the flu season.

WASHINGTON: Two federal health agencies have turned to communications to allay fears ahead of the flu season.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), officials have been "very forthright in relating their message" amid concerns about a flu vaccine shortage or delay, according to Ogilvy PR.

Ogilvy's health and medical practice, which works on several CDC public education accounts, planned the CDC's first press conference around contaminated flu shots on August 27.

The unspecified contamination, found in batches made by Chiron Corp., could delay half of the vaccine supply.

CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding downplayed fears about a public health emergency.

"The CDC is very open, very transparent, with Dr. Gerberding at the helm," said Yolan LaPorte, Ogilvy EVP.

The concerns come as the Department of Health and Human Services has released a draft of its pandemic influenza preparedness plan for public comment.

One of the 12 components of the plan is a detailed PR response, which focuses on key messages and how to disseminate them.

"I think we're going to draw very heavily from the SARS experience," said Sarah Landry, associate director of communications and legislation for the National Vaccine Program. "We are building on experience."

The public comment period is open through October.

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