"Only about a third of children aged six to 23 months received influenza vaccine during the 2005-2006 season," Dr. Jeanne Santoli, deputy director of CDC's Immunization Services Division, said during the teleconference. "Among those children, only two-thirds received the two doses of vaccine that they were recommended to receive. That means that only about a fifth of children were protected fully."
Last season, 69 percent of people 65 and older reported receiving a flu shot, Santoli said. "This is far below our national goal for this group which is 90 percent," she said.
Among younger adults, only 37 percent of those aged 50 to 64 and 31 percent of high-risk adults 18 to 49 (such as those with respiratory problems) reported getting a flu shot, Santoli said. In addition, only about 40 percent of health-care workers received vaccinations, she noted.
To improve the levels of vaccinations, the CDC is recommending getting a shot as soon as the vaccine is available in the coming weeks. And you can get a vaccination beyond the usual October/November window. A shot that is gotten in December, January and even later, can protect against the disease, Santoli said.
"Since influenza peaks in the U.S. in February, most years, we must use opportunities in December and January and beyond in order to protect more American from influenza," Santoli said.
For families faced with the flu, antiviral medications can be effective in helping to fight flu and preventing other family members from getting the illness from an infected relative, said Dr. William Schaffner, vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's department of preventive medicine.
In a related development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved expanding the use of the nasal flu vaccine FluMist to children between 2 and 5 years ol
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