Flu season is upon us, and with it comes reminders from officials and experts urging you to get a flu vaccine.
Influenza virus activity often starts to pick up in October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It usually peaks between December and March before the season ends as late as May.
The CDC as well as the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and other public health and medical organizations recommend that everyone age 6 months or older get vaccinated against influenza every year.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden explained during the NFID’s latest annual news conference about flu season:
“Getting a flu vaccine is important for all of us, for our own protection and for the protection of those around us who may be more vulnerable to flu, such as young children, people with certain chronic health conditions and the elderly. Flu can strike anyone and it can strike hard.”
Frieden received a flu vaccine later during the news conference, after presenting estimates from the 2015-2016 flu season, which were recently published by the CDC.
Overall, vaccination rates dropped to 45.6 percent of the entire U.S. population. That means about 144 million people got vaccinated and reflects a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from the prior flu season.
The biggest drops in vaccination rates were among older people:
- 43.6 percent among people age 50 to 64, a decrease of 3.4 percentage points
- 63.4 percent among people age 65 and older, a decrease of 3.3. percentage points
Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the NFID and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explained these decreases are especially concerning because older adults are disproportionately affected by the flu.
During the 2014-2015 season, for example, nearly 1 million people were hospitalized due to the flu, and more than three-quarters of them were age 65 or older.
“Vaccination not only reduces the chance that older adults will get the flu, it can help keep them out of the hospital by reducing the severity of the infection and related complications if they do get the flu.”
Do you plan to get a flu shot? Sound off below or on Facebook.