Flu vaccine will soon be available at local pharmacies and doctor’s offices, and government officials are urging everyone older than 6 months of age to receive it. This year’s vaccine protects against H1N1 and two other strains of seasonal flu, according to a press release.
The recommendation represents a break from past years, when the government focused on vaccinating people in certain “high-risk” groups and those in contact with people at high risk.
“The message is simple now. If you’re [older] than 6 months of age, get the vaccine,” David Weber, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, stated in the release. “In an average year, there are more than 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 35,000 deaths from flu. Many of those would be preventable by simply getting the flu shot. Flu shots are far and away the best way for preventing flu.”
The advisory committee on immunization practices, a CDC advisory panel that set the recommendation for universal vaccination cited last year’s H1N1 outbreak — which affected many young, healthy people not traditionally considered to be at high risk for complications from flu — as part of the reason for the change. In addition, the list of conditions that put a person at high risk has grown so much over the years that many people are unaware of their high-risk status. Universal vaccination is expected to better protect individuals and the population as a whole.
“It’s important every year. This year it may be more important because anybody who didn’t get H1N1 last year is susceptible to it, and since that was the first year H1N1 was around, many people, if not most people, are susceptible,” he stated.