Main Category: Flu / Cold / SARS
Also Included In: Immune System / Vaccines
Article Date: 28 Sep 2012 – 4:00 PDT
Get Your Influenza Vaccination, The Public Is Urged
Public health officials are leading by example by getting vaccinated themselves against influenza at the NFID (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases) news conference. They urge people to do the same, and warned that nobody knows what this influenza season is going to be like.
Just because last year was a mild flu season does not mean that this year will be the same. They added that even during mild seasons there are still many complications, hospitalizations and deaths from flu.
Howard K. Koh, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said:
“I urge everyone to join me and get a flu vaccine this year.”
Dr. Koh was the first to receive his flu jab at the news conference. Other well known health figures joined him, including leaders from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), National Medical Association, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NFID, American Pharmacists Association, American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The health experts urged everybody aged at least six months to adhere to the CDC’s recommendation of getting a flu jab once a year.
In a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued this week by the CDC, approximately 128 million people in the USA were vaccinated during the 2011-2012 influenza season – about 42% of the US population. Vaccination rates varied widely across says and age groups.
Dr. Koh stated that over the last three years, there is one thing we can predict about influenza – it is unpredictable. It is not possible to look at the past in order to predict what a future influenza season is going to be like.
Since September 14th 2012, over 85 million influenza vaccines have been distributed across the country. Vaccine makers plan to have 135 flu vaccine doses available this season in retail outlets, pharmacies, health clinics, and primary care physician’s offices.
The news conference was led by Dr. William Schaffner, who used to be president of NFID. Dr. Schaffner stated “In this election year, there are many important national health issues that are up for debate, but this is one that is simple to concur on. We should all be voting ‘yes’ for influenza and pneumococcal prevention. It is every individual’s responsibility to put prevention to good use and make vaccination part of their routine healthcare.”
Seasonal influenza only exists outside tropical areas (yellow). In the northern hemisphere (blue) the flu season is from November to April, while in the southern hemisphere (red) it is from April to November
Flu vaccine coverage still short of 80% targetAlthough the 2011-2012 flu vaccination coverage was higher than the year before, and continued the steady gains from previous years, the CDC says that it is still lower than the public health target of 80% of Americans aged between 6 months and 65 years, and 90% of seniors.
Below are some highlighted data regarding influenza vaccination coverage during the 2011-2012 season:
For kids from 6 months to 17 years, the rate remained steady at 52%For babies/toddlers aged 6 to 23 months, the rate rose to about 75%, a six per cent increase on the year beforeFor teenagers aged from 13 to 17 years, the rate stayed low at 34%For seniors (65+ years), 65% were vaccinated. This continues a gradual decline in vaccination rates for this age group. In the 2007-2008 season 74% got the flu jab.47% of pregnant women received a flu vaccine, compared to less than 30% in 2008-2009. Pregnant women should be vaccinated against flu, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Pregnant women have a fivefold higher risk of complications from flu than non-pregnant women of the same age, ACOG informed.
Dr. Laura Riley, director of Obstetrics and Gynecology Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, emphasized that the flu vaccine is safe and helps protect the mom from flu. The baby may have protection if the mom is vaccinated during pregnancy for the first few months of his/her life
86% of doctors were vaccinatedHealth care professionals who worked in hospitals had the highest rates of protection from flu, while those employed in long-term care facilities had the lowestChildhood vaccinations across different race/ethnic groups had similar disparities to previous years.Healthcare professionals can influence influenza vaccination ratesStudies have demonstrated that what health-care professionals recommend, regarding getting the flu jab, has a significant impact on vaccination rates in a community.
Litjen Tan, M.S., Ph.D., director of Medicine and Public Health at the American Medical Association, said:
“It is critical for doctors to protect themselves from the flu and to also encourage their patients to get vaccinated. For example, pregnant women whose doctor recommended the flu vaccine were five times more likely to get vaccinated, so we want to get the message out to all doctors that they can encourage patients to get vaccinated.”
There is a much wider choice of venues for flu vaccines this day than a few years ago. Traditionally, one would go to a doctor’s office or clinic for a flu jab. Today, in all 50 US states, D.C., as well as Puerto Rico, pharmacists can administer influenza vaccines.Mitchel Rothholz, chief strategy officer at the American Pharmacists Association, stated that over 20 million flu vaccines were administered by pharmacists across the country during the 2011-2012 flu season.
Rothholz added that “Pharmacists have been offering flu vaccines for almost two decades, but the 2009 pandemic prompted greater collaboration throughout the immunization neighborhood, resulting in sustained public health gains. Pharmacists and pharmacies are playing a greater role within the immunization neighborhood in making vaccines and vaccine information more accessible to all community residents.”
The influenza vaccine comes in four presentations to meet the needs of various populations:
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