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More Americans Urged to Get Flu Shots
Date:9/19/2007

Vaccine supplies are plentiful this year, but inoculation rates are low, officials say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Too many Americans aren't getting vaccinated for the flu, including those most at risk -- seniors, children and health-care workers -- U.S. health officials warned Wednesday.

"Despite the fact that we have influenza vaccine, we are still failing to protect a large proportion of people," Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a morning teleconference. "Not just our seniors, but people of every age. And we are not even protecting our children. With vaccination, most influenza is preventable."

In recent years, the supply of vaccine has been spotty. But this year, the CDC is expecting a record 132 million doses to be available, which is 10 million more doses than last year.

Every year, an estimated 36,000 Americans die from the flu, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized.

Gerberding stressed that the flu vaccine is safe, and the myth that you can get the flu from the vaccine is just that -- a myth. "It is true that the vaccine is not perfect. In some years, it is more successful than in others in protecting people completely," she said.

It's particularly important that health-are workers get vaccinated, Gerberding said, not only so they and their families don't get sick, but so they don't pass the flu on to those they are caring for. "It's unconscionable that a health-care worker would not receive this vaccine," she said.

Kerry Weems, acting administrator for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that for people on Medicare, the flu vaccine is free with no co-pay and no deductible. "Yet, in any state, 20 percent of people on Medicare aren't getting their flu shot," he said during the teleconference.

Substantial numbers of children and adults not getting vaccinated, either,
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