FLU SEASON — The flu took the lives of more than 100 children in the U.S. last flu season, and most of those kids didn’t get a flu shot.
That’s according to a new report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, aimed to encourage Americans to get vaccinated now. Despite the fact the flu kills up to 36,000 people each year, less than half of the population gets an annual flu shot. That’s something the CDC wants to change.
“Flu hit young and middle-aged adults hard last year and just over 100 children died,” Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University told NBC News. “There is simply no reason to take the risk.”
Ninety percent of the children who died did not receive flu shot, according to the CDC’s Director Dr. Tom Frieden. He and other health officials gathered this week at a briefing sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to discuss plans for the 2014-15 flu season.
The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get the flu shot. So far this year, just a third of young and middle-aged adults have taken the plunge.
Whatever the reason — fear of needles, worry that the vaccine can actually give you the flu or indifference — far too many people are failing to get the flu shot, and that translates to an uncomfortably large group of children who are at risk to contract the virus.
This year, the CDC will have 150 million doses of the vaccine available to the public. New laws require that insurance cover 100 percent of the cost, negating the out-of-pocket expense. And those with needle phobia can instead opt for a nasal spray or a new “needle-free” method that uses a jet to force the vaccine through the skin.
“Influenza vaccines are safe, plentiful and we have more vaccine options than ever before — at least one is right for everyone,” Schaffner said at the briefing. “People should not wait to get vaccinated if their first choice is not available.”
The CDC is also recommending that children ages 2 to 8 receive the nasal spray vaccine this year, as new evidence suggests this method is more effective for this age group, according to USA Today. Last year, just 55 percent of children ages 5 to 17 got vaccinated.
Heath officials are also doing their part. Policies at hospitals and doctor’s offices require all employees get a flu shot, shooting the vaccination rate among doctors and nurses to 90 percent.
“Influenza is constantly evolving as a virus and it’s unpredictable,” Schaffner said. “Last year’s flu season was an unfortunate reminder that no one is exempt from flu’s serious consequences.”
The CDC has a guide on its website that includes tips on how to best prepare this year.