Blog Post

State of the flu: Vaccine rates still below goal

December 18, 2013

    Paige Baschuk, Daily Briefing

    The 2013-2014 influenza season has had a slow start, but officials nonetheless are worried about vaccination rates, which remain far below the federal goal of getting 70% of Americans vaccinated.

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    Four states report high rates of flu activity

    According to CDC's latest flu report, which included data through Dec. 7, 14 states are seeing regional flu activity, 18 are experiencing local flu activity, and 16 states and the District of Columbia report sporadic activity. Overall, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are the only states seeing high rates of flu activity.

    Overall, 6.2 of all deaths reported during week 49 of 2013 were linked to pneumonia and influenza, below the epidemic threshold for this time of year.

    Nonetheless, U.S. residents are still highly encouraged to be vaccinated as "we really don't know what this flu season is going to be like," Anne Schuchat, CDC's director of Global Health, told Modern Healthcare. The agency estimates that about 40% of Americans ages six months and older have been vaccinated this season, slightly more than this time last year.

    Doctor: No excuses for not getting vaccinated

    In a column for CNN, family physician Jennifer Caudle outlines common excuses Americans use to avoid getting the flu shot—and why the excuses ultimately don't hold up:

    • The flu shot will give me the flu. Although some will experience flu-like symptoms as the body protects itself from the flu, the vaccine will not "give" you the flu, Caudle writes.
    • It does not make a difference whether I get the flu shot. CDC estimates that vaccinations prevented 79,000 flu hospitalizations and 6.6 million flu-associated illnesses during the 2012-2013 flu season. Getting vaccinated is doing your part to help your fellow man.

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    • I'm not a candidate for the vaccine. Unless you are pregnant, younger than six months, or have certain, rare medical conditions, you can get the shot.
    • I never get sick, so I don't need the vaccine. Even if you experience no symptoms or mild ones, those you come in contact with—infants, the elderly, and those already sick—may not have strong enough immune systems to fight the flu and could suffer serious complications.
    • It's too late in the season to get the vaccine. Flu activity tends to peak in January and February and last as late as May, so there is plenty of time to benefit from getting vaccinated.
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