December 4-10 is National Influenza Vaccination Week!  

Have you gotten your flu vaccine? It's not too late! It's National Influenza Vaccination Week. An annual flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent this serious illness. CDC wants you to know it's not too late to vaccinate!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) established National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. This season's NIVW is scheduled for December 4-10, 2011. Around the country, NIVW events including press briefings, radio interviews featuring CDC flu experts, health fairs, flu clinics and education opportunities are taking place to emphasize the importance of flu vaccination.

It's Not Too Late to Vaccinate!

Don't fall for the myth that it's too late to vaccinate against the flu once the Thanksgiving holidays are over. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination can provide protection against the flu. According to the latest CDC Flu activity report, influenza levels are currently low across the country. However, flu activity doesn't usually peak until January or February in the United States and can last as late as May, so it's important to vaccinate now if you haven't already.

An Annual Flu Vaccine for Everyone 6 Months of Age and Older

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. A flu vaccine offers the best protection we have against this serious disease. Once vaccinated, it takes about 2 weeks for the body's immune response to fully kick in.

High-Risk Groups

There are certain people who are at high-risk of developing serious flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

A full list of people at high risk of serious complications from flu because of age or other medical conditions is available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm

In addition, there are other people for whom vaccination is especially important:

  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    • Health care workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Some Children May Need 2 Doses of Flu Vaccine

NIVW reminds parents, guardians and caregivers of children not only about the importance of flu vaccination in general, but the fact that some children may need 2 doses of vaccine this season to be fully protected.

Children younger than 9 years old who did not receive at least 1 dose of last season's (2010-2011) influenza vaccine, or those for whom it is unknown whether they received at least 1 dose of the 2010-2011 flu vaccine, will need 2 doses of vaccine this season to be fully protected (even if they received 2 doses in a flu season prior to the 2010-2011 season). So if your child is younger than 9 and has been vaccinated with one dose, make sure he/she gets a second dose if recommended by their pediatrician.

Flu Vaccine? You've Got Choices!

There are two types of flu vaccines:

The "flu shot" — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. There are 3 different flu shots available:

  • A regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older
  • A high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and
  • An intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for "Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine"). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Vaccine Availability & Choices

This year, there's no excuse not to get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is still available and there are more choices than ever, both in terms of where to get vaccinated and what type of vaccine to get. The regular flu shot is available for everyone 6 months of age and older, and thenasal spray formulation is available for healthy*, non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 years of age. There also is a "high-dose" vaccine for people 65 years of age and older, and an intradermal vaccine, which uses a much smaller needle, for people 18 to 64 years old. In addition to your doctor's office, there are various locations in your community where flu vaccine is available, like your pharmacy, grocery store or local health department. If you're not sure or have questions about what vaccine to get, talk with your doctor or health care provider. Go to the Flu Vaccine Finder and type in your zip code to find flu vaccine locations near you.

*"Healthy" indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

"The Flu Ends with U." Get a Flu Vaccine, Not the Flu

Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines. Once vaccinated, you can enjoy this holiday season knowing that you have taken the single best step to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu. Remember, the "Flu Ends With U". Get a flu vaccine, not the flu.