A panel of immunization experts voted Feb. 24 to expand the recommendation for annual influenza vaccination to include all people aged 6 months and older. The expanded recommendation is to take effect in the 2010–2011 influenza season. The new recommendation seeks to remove barriers to influenza immunization and signals the importance of preventing influenza across the entire population.
Prior to today’s vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on vaccine issues, recommendations for seasonal influenza vaccination – which focused on vaccination of higher risk persons, children aged6 months through 18 years and close contacts of higher risk persons – already applied to about 85% of the U.S. population.
Discussion at the ACIP meeting focused on the value of protecting all people 19 years to 49 years of age, who have been hard hit by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus, which is likely to continue circulating into next season and beyond. Another reason cited in favor of a universal recommendation for vaccination is that many people in currently recommended “higher risk” groups are unaware of their risk factor or that they are recommended for vaccination, according to a press release. The ACIP discussion also recognized the practicality and value of issuing a simple and clear message regarding the importance of influenza vaccination in the hopes that this would remove impediments to vaccination and expand coverage.