Flu vaccination rates fall short of goals

Flu vaccination rates were slightly higher through mid-November compared with the same time last year but remained well short of targeted goals, health officials said Thursday.

Though the 2012-2013 flu season was a “relatively severe season” for influenza, more than 6 million people and as many as 79,000 hospitalizations were prevented because of flu vaccinations, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Flu vaccine in a vial doesn't do anyone any good,” Frieden said during a news conference. “The more people vaccinated, the more benefits to individuals, the fewer the hospitalizations, the fewer the illnesses and deaths.”

The CDC estimates that about 40% of Americans ages 6 months and older have gotten vaccinated this season, about three percentage points higher than for the same time in 2012. Despite the increase, the rate remained well below the agency's goal of getting 70% of Americans vaccinated.

Rates of infection this season were not on pace with last year's, when an early start to the flu season resulted in 381,000 hospitalizations and 169 pediatric deaths.

Despite those early numbers, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's Center for Global Health, it is too soon to know how the season will progress. The peak time for flu infections last year was January through March. “We're not where we were last year, but we really don't know what this flu season is going to be like,” she said.

Vaccination coverage among healthcare workers, 62.9%, remained relatively unchanged from last year's November totals. Pharmacists reported having the highest vaccination rates at 90%, with physicians coming in second at 84% and nurses third at 79%.

The lowest rates were once again found among employees of long-term care facilities, where only 53% reported getting vaccinated.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson



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