WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- With plenty of influenza
vaccine available, U.S. health officials urged Americans Wednesday
to get a flu shot.
Last year, some 130.9 million Americans -- about 43 percent of
the population -- got a shot, which represents an increase over
past years. The greatest increase was among children 6 months to 17
years old. But, more adults are getting vaccinated, too, according
to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Eight million more Americans got the flu shot last year than the year before, and that's the most people who have ever been vaccinated against flu in this country," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a Wednesday morning press conference.
About 51 percent of American children were vaccinated last year
-- a 7 percent increase from the year before and 22 percent
increase from the year before that, Frieden said. However, the
number of young adults with conditions such as asthma who get flu
shots is still too low, he said.
One reason for the increase in vaccinations appears to be a
response to the emergence of the H1N1 flu two years ago, Frieden
said. But it's important to get vaccinated this year, he added.
"There are too many illnesses and deaths from influenza each year," Frieden said. "Everyone over 6 months should get a flu shot this year and every year."
Right now, more than 85 million doses of flu vaccine are
available in doctors' offices, public health clinics, pharmacies
and retail stores, among other sites. More doses will be available
than ever before. And you don't have to go to your doctor to get a
shot because pharmacists in all 50 states can administer them.
Also, there are four ways to get vaccinated: a nasal spray; the
traditional injection vaccine; a high-dose injection for people 65
and older; and a new vaccine injected in the forearm using a
"It looks like we are going to have a vaccine that's very well matched to the circulating strains," Frieden said.
The CDC also recommends a three-step approach to protect
yourself and family from the flu. First, get a flu shot. Second,
use everyday preventive measures, such as hand washing and covering
your mouth when you cough.
Finally, if you do get the flu, use antiviral drugs such as
oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) to help reduce the
risk of complications.
Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Richard H. Beigi,
assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive
sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance
of pregnant women getting a flu shot.
"The influenza vaccine during pregnancy is safe for both mothers and for babies," said Beigi, who's also a spokesman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Pregnant women suffer more serious morbidity and occasional mortality from influenza. This was validated during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic and last year as well," he added.
Pregnant women who get the flu are also more likely to deliver
early and have underweight babies, Beigi said.
"Giving mom an influenza vaccination during pregnancy not only protects the mother, but also protects the newborn infant for the first six months of life. This is important because newborns less than six months of age are not eligible to receive the influenza vaccine, but are at higher risk for morbidity and occasional mortality," he said.
Frieden also recommended that seniors get a pneumococcal
vaccination to protect them from flu complications such as
pneumonia and meningitis. The vaccine is also recommended for young
adults who have lung, heart or liver problems or diabetes or
asthma, he said.
It's impossible to predict the severity of an approaching flu
season, which usually picks up steam in December and peaks in
February before easing in March and April. The flu causes an
estimated 200,000 hospitalizations and between 3,000 and 49,000
deaths in a typical year, according to the CDC.
For more on the flu, visit the
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