When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued "high-risk" rules about who qualifies for the flu shot, they automatically became law in North Carolina because of the way the state's public health rules are written.
State Health Director Leah Devlin sent a letter to 1,200 healthcare providers to remind them about the law.
"We just felt like it was another tool in the toolbox to remind them of the authority they do have to be able to say you're in a high-risk group and you're not. That's a difficult thing for many providers," she said.
The rule is designed to help doctors and nurses when a healthy patient is demanding a flu shot, but it is the person giving the shot who would be breaking the law.
"Technically, a violation of this would be a misdemeanor," Devlin said.
Dr. Mike Knudsen said the law does not change what his practice will do, but it will make his staff more careful.
"Having my staff want to see somebody and they say, 'We're high-risk, give us the vaccine.' We're going to be asking for documentation from people we don't know," he said.
Devlin said the law is not meant to be punitive. She said her department will not be actively policing the law, but it is there if they need it.
Health officials said North Carolina has about half as many doses of the flu vaccine as expected.
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