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Influenza Vaccination Rates Remain Low as Flu Activity Continues to Rise

DEC 12, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
In addition, the CDC also took a closer look at estimates regarding vaccination coverage in pregnant women and healthcare workers. They found that over half of pregnant women do not receive a flu shot; however, the estimates of pregnant women receiving their flu vaccine this year (47%) are six percentage points higher than the 2014-2015 estimates. For healthcare providers, the estimates are comparable to last year’s early estimates, with about 69% of healthcare providers receiving their flu shots. A somewhat troubling note is that last flu season, only 69% of healthcare personnel working in long-term healthcare facilities, received flu shots and early estimations regarding vaccination coverage this year is 55%, “the lowest among all health care providers.”

In the press release, Dr. Messonnier stressed, “It is really important that health care workers get vaccinated and especially important that we continue to make progress vaccinating health care workers who work in long-term facilities. Many of the most frail and vulnerable people live in these facilities and we know that vaccinating their caregivers helps protect them.”

The flu changes every year, which means that each year, a lot of work goes into figuring out the next season’s strains in order to update the seasonal flu vaccine and maintain its effectiveness when it comes to prevention. According to the CDC, H3N2 viruses are “predominant” this year, which is why this flu season is predicted to be all the more severe, especially for those who are at higher risk.

According to the press release, “Flu vaccination last season is estimated to have reduced the amount of flu illnesses and hospitalizations that would have occurred in an unvaccinated population by 19 percent,” preventing around 5.1 million illnesses and 71,000 influenza-related hospitalizations. The report on the impact of vaccination stresses that receiving a flu shot is nothing but beneficial. With the vaccine, a significant number of illnesses and hospitalizations can be avoided. For example, “There was an estimated 25 million flu illnesses and 310,000 flu-associated hospitalizations in the United States last season—but if vaccination rates had been 5 percentage points higher, another 500,000 flu illnesses and 6,000 flu-related hospitalizations could have been prevented.”

Past data regarding vaccination coverage suggests that vaccination tends to drop after the month of November despite the fact that influenza has reached peak levels between the months of December and February almost 75% for the past 30 years; this means that receiving vaccination after November would still be beneficial. In addition to vaccination, the CDC also recommends that individuals, especially those at high risk, take antiviral drugs as a second preventive measure against the virus.
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