In honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released
information pertaining to influenza vaccination coverage throughout the United States. Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent “catching the flu;” however, recent data show that flu vaccine coverage remains low this year.
According to the CDC’s report, which is released each year, last season’s influenza vaccine prevented about 5 million individuals from catching the flu and 71,000 individuals from ending up hospitalized due to influenza. The CDC reports that since the beginning of November, only 2 out of 5 people have received this season’s influenza vaccine in the United States.
In a press release, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said, “We are glad to see that people are making the decision to protect themselves and their families from the flu, but coverage is still low and we urge people to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet. We have a tool that is proven to prevent flu illness and hospitalization but millions of people are not taking advantage of it. Too many people are unprotected.”
Although this season’s vaccination coverage estimates are similar to the numbers of last season at this time for all age groups (40% of people received their flu shot—including 41% of adults of 18 or older and 37% of children ranging from 6 months to 17 years of age), the CDC is paying close attention to those who are at higher risk, such as children and adults 50 and older.
According to the CDC, compared to the common cold, influenza is more dangerous
for children. Each year, around 20,000 children under five end up needing hospitalization due to influenza infections. Since the 2004-2005 influenza season, 37 to 171 flu-related deaths are reported to the CDC each year.
Joe Bresee, MD, a pediatrician and chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of CDC’s Influenza Division stressed in the press release, “We are urging parents to make sure their children get a flu shot this season, as the nasal-spray vaccine is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. An annual flu vaccine is very important protection for children.”
In adults 50 or older, the CDC noted that there has been a “three percentage point decrease” in final vaccine coverage estimates for 2015-2016 comparted with the 2014-2015 flu season. It has been known that adults over 65 are at higher risk for acquiring the flu due to weakened immune function, but Dr. Messonnier reminded the public that a third of people between 50 and 64 have conditions that put them at increased risk of catching the flu and developing serious complications.