The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this year is recommending that families get their seasonal flu vaccines as soon as they can.
With the nation’s focus on the development of a vaccine for the H1N1 pandemic flu expected to be available later in October, health officials are concerned that families might choose to wait to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu.
Each year, as many as 60 million Americans get the flu, and the resulting complications cause more than 200,000 hospitalizations annually, according to the CDC.
Also, children between the ages of 2 and 17 reportedly are twice as likely as adults to get seasonal flu and frequently require medical care.
While protection against the H1N1 influenza virus might be just around the corner and foremost on our minds, safeguards against seasonal flu viruses still are necessary and are available now.
“We may be thinking about the need for an H1N1 vaccination, but we can’t forget the importance of getting vaccinated first for the seasonal flu,” said Anat R. Feingold, M.D., Head of Cooper’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
An expert in pediatric infectious disease, Dr. Feingold took part in last month’s “Don’t Play With the Flu” national health-awareness campaign led by MedImmune, the biologics business for Astra Zeneca PLC, in partnership with Women’s Professional Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization. The high-profile campaign kicked off in New York City with a one-of-a-kind soccer clinic led by soccer legends Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain.
“It is very important to increase seasonal flu vaccination rates for eligible children and families,” Dr. Feingold said. “Along with all the things that parents know are important for helping keep their kids healthy, like washing hands and getting enough sleep, influenza vaccination should be at the top of the list. It’s a smart defense to help protect our kids – and ourselves – from seasonal flu,” she said.
See your healthcare provider to get the flu vaccine, or seek out other locations where the vaccine is being offered.
This year’s seasonal flu vaccine protects against three, new influenza virus strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the 2009-2010 flu season. They are:
- A/Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like virus.
- A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus.
- B/Brisbane 60/2008-like antigens.
According to the CDC, the vaccine can protect you from getting sick from these three viruses, or it can make your illness milder if you get a related but different influenza virus strain.
In general, anyone who wants to reduce the chance of getting seasonal flu can get vaccinated. However, it is recommended by the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that certain people should get vaccinated each year. Most of these people are recommended for vaccination because they are at high risk of having serious flu complications or they live with or care for people at high risk for serious complications.
People recommended for seasonal influenza vaccination during the 2009-2010 season are:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday.
- Pregnant women.
- People 50 years of age and older.
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare workers; household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu; and household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age. (Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated.)