ATLANTA — In preparation for the National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a press conference Friday afternoon to raise awareness around the universal need for people to be protected against influenza. “It’s a week that we typically highlight the importance of the flu vaccine,” Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters. During a typical season, he said, most influenza incidents begin picking up in December. “Flu activity is now increasing across the country, and the flu season is well underway,” Koh said. “If you’ve been thinking about getting vaccinated for influenza, now is a very good time to do so.”
At this time last year, added Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, the H1N1 flu was in full circulation, and the CDC was conducting weekly press conferences. “This fall has begun like so many influenza seasons, with relatively few flu viruses circulating through the end of November,” she said. “[But] we don’t want people to be complacent because disease activity has been low so far this year. Flu is coming.”
Right now there is a sharp increase across Georgia, Schuchat said, primarily in school age children. The prominent virus is an influenza B strain that matches up well to the B strain included in this year’s vaccine, Schuchat added. “Everything we know so far suggests to us that vaccine should be a good match for the circulating strain.”
According to a telephone survey of 38,000 adults recently conducted by the CDC, 33% of the population has already been vaccinated. Of those who haven’t been vaccinated, 15% plan on getting their flu shots, and 25% suggested they would “probably” get vaccinated.
That vaccine is being administered most commonly in the doctor’s office — 63% of patients reported that they received their shot there or in a hospital or clinic. Approximately 18% received their shots at their workplace or school, and 16% from a supermarket pharmacy or other retail setting.
To date, 64% of those over the age of 65 years have been vaccinated, Schuchat added.