State, Federal Officials Remind Health Care Workers, Other At-Risk People to get Annual Flu Shot

HARRISBURG – Fewer than half of health care workers get an annual flu shot, prompting a reminder today from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control of the need for at-risk individuals to be vaccinated against influenza.

“There is plenty of vaccine available this season, so there is no reason for anyone to skip getting a flu shot,” said Joanne Grossi, deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention at the Department of Health. “It is extremely important for health care professionals to be vaccinated in order to reduce the risk of spreading illness in health care settings.”

Grossi was joined by Dr. Jeanne Santoli, the CDC’s deputy director of immunization services, at a meeting with staff at PinnacleHealth System in Harrisburg where they stressed the need for health care workers to get flu shots each year.

“Dr. Santoli is an expert in the area of immunizations and we’re very glad that she chose Pennsylvania as the first stop on a national tour promoting this important issue,” Grossi said.

“We are working hard with states and our many public health partners to ensure that the nation’s influenza vaccine supplies are distributed as quickly and effectively as possible,” said Santoli. “This season’s strong vaccine supply level presents us with the opportunity to have more people protected against influenza than ever. Getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect you and your family from influenza.”

In recent years, vaccine shortages or shipment delays posed problems for some people seeking flu shots. That is not the case this year, as vaccine manufacturers expect to produce up to 132 million doses for the current season. The Department of Health ordered more than 250,000 doses for distribution through state health clinics, federally qualified health centers, rural health centers and other providers.

In Pennsylvania, flu season typically begins in October and peaks in February and March. While October and November are the best times to be vaccinated, individuals can still be protected by getting a flu shot in December or later. The Department of Health will be stressing this message during National Influenza Vaccination Week, which begins Nov. 26.

The CDC recommends the following groups get immunized for the 2007-08 flu season, since they are at a higher risk for developing complications due to influenza:

-People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions;
-People who live with or care for any individual in a high-risk group;
-People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
-People 50 years of age and older;
-Health care workers;
-Family members, caregivers, and other household contacts of infants six months and younger, as these children are too young for vaccination;
-Children aged 6–59 months; and
-Pregnant women.

Each year in the United States, an average of 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from complications due to influenza.

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