The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention kicked off National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 4 to 10) by holding a teleconference to update the public on the latest flu statistics across the country. CDC officials expressed “cautious optimism” for flu prevention because there was a slight uptake in those getting the flu vaccine throughout all ages and demographics.
The latest flu facts came from an Internet-based national flu survey conducted from Nov. 1 to Nov. 13.
“Influenza is a serious and unpredictable disease,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, during a CDC teleconference. “It’s not too late to vaccinate.”
Koh emphasized the importance of children, pregnant women, health care workers and people with chronic conditions getting vaccinated. While about 42 percent of people with chronic conditions had received a flu vaccine, most children across the country had already received one as of Nov. 13.
“Influenza activity in the United States does not typically peak until January or February, and influenza activity was low as of the third week in November,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, during the teleconference.
According to the survey, Schuchat said about 36 percent, or 111 million eligible Americans, had received a flu shot by the end of the survey dates. Vaccines have never been more readily available, said Schuchat, and people should take advantage of that availability by visiting their local medical offices, grocery stores, pharmacies and job sites.
While the researchers hope that millions more flu shots will be doled out in the coming months, Schuchat said they are encouraged by data relating to racial and ethnic disparities.
“There were no disparities among minority children,” said Schuchat. “The coverage was highest in Hispanic children.”
Among adults, Schuchat said the disparities among minorities were more worrisome. About 40 percent of white adults received the vaccine, 26 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of blacks. Forty-three percent of pregnant women had been vaccinated.
“Our hope every year is that we’re going to use all the flu vaccines that are distributed,” said Schuchat. “We believe that supplies are still ample around the country.”