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Survey: Two-Thirds of Americans Plan to Get Flu Vaccine

CDC Says 170 Million Doses of Flu Vaccine Will Be Available This Flu Season
By Rita Rubin
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 21, 2011 -- Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults plan to be vaccinated against the flu this season, while seven in 10 parents say they're likely to get their children immunized, according to new survey data.

"The last several years we're seeing an upward trend in influenza vaccination rates," said Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, MD, at a news conference on Wednesday.

"Influenza vaccine remains the best prevention for the seasonal viral disease," he said. Schaffner is president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Last flu season, the CDC began recommending that all Americans 6 months old and older be vaccinated against the disease. The CDC says 130.9 million Americans -- 43% of the U.S. population -- were vaccinated.

"Our goal is to make annual vaccination a no-brainer for Americans across all age groups," Schaffner said.

Vaccine manufacturers and health care providers are prepared to meet an increased demand for flu vaccine. More doses will be available this season than ever before. All 50 states now allow pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine.

More than 85 million doses have already been distributed to doctors' offices, public health clinics, pharmacies, and retail stores. That's about half the 170 million doses that will be available this season, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said at the news conference.

Last flu season, 18% of adults who got vaccinated did so at a pharmacy, grocery store, or other retail outlet, according to the CDC. Instead of lines for flu shots, a not uncommon sight at stores in some recent years, people are seeing "no appointment necessary" signs this fall.

Even some people with egg allergies can now get flu vaccine, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Although they previously were told to avoid getting immunized, they can receive the standard flu shot if their only reaction to eggs is hives. The foundation advises that people with egg allergies get their vaccine from a health care professional who's familiar with such allergies.

Types of Flu Vaccine

For the first time, there are four types of flu vaccine available: a nasal spray, the conventional flu shot into muscle, a high-dose shot for people 65 and older, and a new shot, approved for adults 18 to 65, that uses a smaller needle to inject vaccine under the skin.

Because influenza doesn't usually peak until January or February, "now is a great time to get the flu vaccine," said Frieden, who rolled up his sleeve and received his shot during the news conference. "It looks like we're going to have a vaccine that's very well-matched to the circulating strains."

For only the eighth time in 42 years, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the same strains are circulating two years in a row, including H1N1 (swine flu), so this year's vaccine is the same as last year's. Still, adults who were immunized last year need to do it again this year, Frieden says, because the flu vaccine's effectiveness wanes over the course of a year.

Schaffner says his group's annual survey of adults found that the fact this year's strains are identical to last year's won't dissuade most from getting immunized.

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