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CDC recommends getting flu shot before end of October


WASHINGTON - The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday morning to advocate everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated against influenza this year, preferably by the end of October - "A vaccination deferred is a vaccination forgotten," Tom Frieden, director CDC, said.

"Flu vaccine is one of the best buys in public health," Frieden shared with attendees of a press conference Thursday morning. "If we could increase vaccination coverage in this country by just 5% more, that would prevent about 800,000 illnesses and nearly 10,000 hospitalizations."

Last year's flu season was characterized by mild illness and a later-than-usual peak and as many as 45.6% of Amerians over the age of six months got their flu shot. Coverage of 46% among the public means about 144 million people received a flu vaccine last season in the U.S.

Among children, as many as 60% were vaccinated. "We're making progess with kids," Frieden said. "This is the group who's most likely to not only to get the flu but to spread it as well."

 However, there was a 3% drop in flu shots among adults last year, which is concerning, the agencies noted.

The largest coverage decreases were seen among older people with a drop of 3.4 percentage points to 43.6% among people 50 to 64 years old and a drop of 3.3 percentage points to 63.4% among people 65 years and older.

Flu shots are particularly important for seniors, the agencies noted. "Adults age 65 years and older are disproportionally affected by flu," observed William Schaffner, medical director NFID. "During the severe 2014-2015 season, more than three-quarters of the nearly one million people hospitalized due to influenza were age 65 years and older. Vaccination not only reduces the chance that older adults will get the flu, it can help keep them out of the hospital by reducing the severity of the infection and related complications if they do get the flu."

Data also show that U.S. healthcare personnel are getting their flu vaccines at the highest rates ever, Frieden reported, with as many as 95.6% of physicians getting vaccinated for the flu and 79% among all healthcare personnel.

And while there have been some early cases of flu this year, and those illnesses indicate a good match with this year's flu vaccine, it's too eary to tell if this year's predominant strain will be a good match to this year's vaccine, Frieden said.

Frieden took the opportunty to advocate for the pneumoccacal vaccine as well, noting that an ideal time to get that vaccine is when you are sitting in the chair recieving a flu shot. "If you look at just the people over the age of 65, four out of 10 still haven't been vaccinated against pneumonia," Frieden said.

For the 2016-2017 season, vaccine manufacturers have estimated that up to 168 million doses of injectable influenza vaccine will be available in the U.S. this season. More than 93 million doses of flu vaccine have already been delivered.

Two new flu vaccine options are available this season. One is a four-component flu shot made with virus grown in cell culture, a different process than the more traditional egg-based method. That vaccine is licensed for use among people 4 years and older.

Another new option this year is licensed for adults age 65 years and older and includes an adjuvant, which is an ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response. This flu vaccine is available this season for those age 65 years and older. The second of these vaccines was developed specifically to protect older adults, who may not respond as well to vaccination as younger people.


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