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Flu Vaccine Slowly Gaining Acceptance

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More kids are getting flu shots in New York City, but the numbers are still very low. So far this year, only about one in five children has been vaccinated.

Among the most vulnerable — kids between 6-35 months — that number is a bit higher, with one in three getting vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone over 6 months of age get the flu vaccine, but the American public continues to be skeptical.

Last year, 43 percent of Americans in that age group were vaccinated, about 2 percentage-points higher than the prior year. Surveys suggest many people believe it isn't necessary or can actually make you sick. One recent meta-study found that the vaccine is overall about 60 percent effective in adults — a lower prevention rate than many people expect from vaccines.

Dr. Jane Zucker, from the Health Department, said about 10 percent more kids have gotten shots compared to this time last year. She’s hopeful a new program to let private practices know they’re being tracked by the city will help boost vaccination rates.

"Now, early in the season, the practice will have an idea of how well they’re doing, against their peers, which seems to be a good motivator," Zucker said.

Zucker added the peak of flu season isn’t until February, so there’s plenty of time to get vaccinated. The city doesn’t monitor adults in real time, as it does with children, but Zucker said looking back at recent years, the rates have been increasing. Last year saw a big jump, with 62 percent of those over age 65 getting shots — compared with 53 percent a year earlier.

She said it’s early, but the strains of flu in this year’s vaccine, also known as isolates, appear well-suited to fight off the flu strains circulating among the public.

"There appears to be a very good match," Zucker said. "All of the initial isolates they’ve characterized — and that’s a dozen isolates for influenza A — those are all matched well to the vaccine. And so far there’s one Influenza B they’ve characterized, which is also a good match to the vaccine."

 

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