The CDC hopes this recommendation will cut the number of flu cases in schools, which make up a high percentage of all flu cases, because children tend to spread the disease, Gerberding said.
Others who should be vaccinated include adults over 50, people who have chronic illnesses, pregnant women, and people who are likely to come in contact with people who have flu, including all health-care workers, Gerberding said.
"This is the largest group of people we have ever recommended get flu shots. That's about 261 million people in the United States," Gerberding said.
The vaccine supply this year should be more than adequate, she added, with about 146 million doses available. Because many Americans who should be vaccinated never get an inoculation, vaccine manufacturers typically produce fewer doses than would be needed if all people were to get a shot.
"We still face an excess burden of mortality from what is our nation's number one vaccine-preventable disease," Gerberding, said. Every year, there are 36,000 deaths, 200,000 hospitalizations and countless days of work and school lost due to flu, she noted.
Last year, 72 percent of those aged 65 and older received flu vaccinations. Among adults 18 to 49, 35 percent were vaccinated. For people 50 to 64, 42 percent were vaccinated. For children between 2 months and 2 years of age, only 21 percent were vaccinated. Only 42 percent of health-care workers were vaccinated, Gerberding said.
People can get a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available, and they can continue to get one throughout the flu season, into December, January, and beyond. While flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time flu activity peaks in January or later, according to the CDC.
For more on flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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