Category Archives: Immunizations
The flu season is pretty mild so far. The latest FluView report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the current rate of flu cases across the country is below other years, and some states have yet to see any flu cases at all. But health experts worry those reports will make people who still haven’t gotten the vaccine complacent about getting their shot. And going without poses the risk of a multi-day illness; transmitting the flu to other people who may be more vulnerable to the virus than you; and the potential for serious side effects such as pneumonia and—in rare cases—death.
If you’re still shotless, health experts advise you to roll up your sleeves by Wednesday if at all possible. Here’s why: Immunity to the flu can take up to two weeks after you’ve received the injection. Get the shot by this Wednesday, November 13, and you’ll be protected by the day before Thanksgiving.
That’s the heaviest U.S. travel day of the year, when the possibility of encountering people with the flu at airports, train stations, or even at Thanksgiving dinner greatly increases.
“Visiting mom, grandma and that new baby can make for memorable holiday moments, as long as you don't bring the flu virus along to spoil the party,” says Jeff Golden, spokesman for the Madison, Wisc., health department which, like many other health departments, has sent out recent flu advisories.
CDC research adds another reason to get the shot this week. The agency has found that the momentum to get the flu vaccine wanes after Thanksgiving, perhaps because people assume that as the weather gets colder, if they haven't gotten influenza yet, they won’t. But that’s foolhardy thinking. The U.S. flu season runs from September through April, and the worst of it often hits in January and February. If you wait until cases increase, you may find that you don’t have enough time for the shot to protect you. And you may also find it hard to locate supplies of the vaccine. Knowing that interest in the shot drops after Thanksgiving, private and public clinics, as well as doctors’ offices, often return unused supplies toward the end of the year to free up storage space and in some cases get a refund on the unused doses. Health departments may then keep supplies centrally, but that location may not be convenient.
Wonder where to get the flu shot? Here are good ideas:
- Key in your zip code at flu.gov
- Dial 211, a resource for local services in many communities
- Check pharmacies to see if they have supplies on hand and what hours they give the shots
- Call your local health department to ask if they have clinic hours for the flu vaccination
- Key in “travel clinic” on a search engine to find private clinics in business districts, but call ahead to check on supplies and hours
Health departments may give the shot for free, or ask for payment on a sliding scale based on income. Pharmacies charge about $25, and private doctors’ offices may add a $10 or $20 administrative fee on top of that. The cost is typically covered by insurance, though you may have to file the paperwork yourself.
The decision by the ABC Network to hire former model and MTV celebrity Jenny McCarthy to be a host on “The View,” a weekday talk show aimed at women, had vaccines in the news this week. It remains to be seen whether the increased attention will have an impact on the number of kids getting their shots, and getting them on time this year. In her book and in a myriad of interviews, McCarthy has linked her son’s diagnosis of autism with the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccines he received as a baby. In a 2008 USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, a quarter of people surveyed said they were familiar with McCarthy’s views and of those respondents, 40 percent said her views would make them more likely to question the safety of vaccines.
As parents start setting up back to school visits, including many immunizations, for kids, Kristine Sheedy, PhD, associate director of communication science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, answered questions for NewPublicHealth about the impact of parents skipping or delaying childhood vaccines.
NewPublicHealth: What are the most common vaccines parents skip for their kids, and why?
Kristine Sheedy: We know that parents and health care professionals across the U.S. are doing a good job protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases because data from our 2011 National Immunization Survey (NIS) shows immunization coverage among children 19 to 35 months remained stable or increased for all recommended vaccines. In fact, coverage for most of the routine vaccines remains at or over 90 percent, and less than 1 percent of young children get no vaccinations.
This week is National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance to promote vaccinations in kids two and younger.
Last September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children are at near-record or record highs. But CDC experts say that without ongoing efforts to maintain immunization programs in the US – and to strengthen them worldwide -- vaccine-preventable diseases remain a threat to children. In 2010, for example, an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) killed ten infants in California.
CDC and the CDC Foundation are recognizing innovative child immunization efforts this year with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Awards, a new annual award to recognize individuals who make significant contributions toward improving public health through their work in childhood immunization.
Innovations recognized this year include:
- A contest to help increase the number of people vaccinated against season flu.
- A link between a hospital’s electronic medical records and the state immunization registry which lets pediatrics practices upload vaccine information directly into the registry and gives providers easy access to registry data about their patients.
- Vaccine mobiles, providing free vaccines regardless of insurance coverage, parked at public spaces and linked to a state registry system.
Weigh In: What innovative approaches have increased infant immunization rates in your community?